Thursday, March 29, 2012

I am in a book

Several years ago, I contributed to an encyclopedia, and it was recently released. It was one of my first entries into publishing, and it really helped me learn the ropes. At first writing is fun, then it is annoying, then it becomes painful, and one can easily become enraged, depressed, and discover all sorts of new and interesting forms of procrastination. (This cycle may vary, person to person, but I have yet to meet anyone who hasn't been at least mildly afflicted.)

I met Mimi Sheraton, former New York Times food critic, who was asked, "Are there any projects you have given up on?"
 Mimi replied coolly, "yes all of them."

This very simple reply, by a very seasoned* writer, has stuck with me and helped me mentally hurdle obstacles that seemed insurmountable. I sort of mentally carry Mimi around and allow myself to give up on a project - but never allowing myself to delete or burn it - and then come back to it after some time has passed. If I have a deadline, that sometimes means a day or two. Other projects... well let's just say I have a lot more "draft" posts and half-baked* stories than completed ones. But that is also sort of great. Sometimes it's helpful to walk, talk, or write out an idea that needs to get out of the way of my better one.

So while I added less than 1000 words to this book, I am really proud of the research and recipes, as well as the opportunity to be part of a book titled: They Eat That?

As an added bonus Marion Nestle did a little write up about it.

*I still find it hard to edit out puns. I love them!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Easter & Passover

Gentile or Jew, spring holidays can sometimes be tricky to make - and keep - gluten free. Here are a few cool tools.

Have you seen these gluten-free matzo?
If you are lucky enough to be able to nosh gf oats - gluten free oat matzo. Or you can make your own!

Gluten free Easter candy lists:
list 2
list 3

I am a pretty big fan of making your own new traditions too.

Daura - not-so-gluten-free-beer

UPDATE - apparently this is designated as a "low gluten beer" and is NOT gluten-free. Please consider this before you make the decision to consume this beverage.

I tried Daura Estrella Damm last week. The bar has been set pretty low in the gluten-free beer category, so I might be over-selling it.

Pros - It tastes like beer!
Cons - It tastes like crappy beer.

I have to give the company credit for creating a gluten-free beer from barley. Bravo on mastering that science experiment. Sadly, the result tastes a lot like college drinking games. I found it reminiscent of Coors Light or Busch Light. My drinking companion said it tasted like Corona.

Here I am clearly making a personal preference judgement call. I do not like this style of beer. To be fare, it is the MOST beer-like gluten-free beer I have ever had. The carbonation is right, the flavor is light, the hops are slight - but it is beer. So if you enjoy an easy-drinking beer, this might be exactly what you are looking for.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

naked pizza

There are few things I miss more than pizza and beer. Yes, there are a lot more gluten-free beers out there, and more places than ever are offering gluten-free pizza crust options... but let's face it, most of them suck. Gluten-free beers are bad. They either have a sour finish and/or taste way too sweet; and they all are missing true hoppy-ness. The carbonation is lacking, and they just don't taste like BEER. Gluten-free pizza crusts have their own host of problems, both taste and texture related. Please don't even get me started on ones filled with soy or chickpea flour - mehhck flavor and lead to tummy bubble city.

This leaves me on my important mission of trying and reporting back on any and all pizza and beer options. Yes, it is a difficult task, but someone needs to do it.

I first heard about Naked Pizza from a friend living in New Orleans. He mentioned that all locations have gluten free crusts, but these were sight unseen. When I heard they opened up a branch in Brookline, MA, I knew what I had to do.

I was a bit surprised when I walked in. The shop is very small, only 2 tables and a few counter seats. The menu is cute and quirky; imagine if your android phone made 2-d, minimalist icons for toppings. The decor is a combination of silver and GREEN. The place clearly is not designed for people to linger, but there is a large tv playing little videos about how the pizza's are made, where the ingredients come from, etc. Staff were super friendly and knowledgeable... but you are reading cause you want to know about the pies!

 This is probably the best restaurant gluten-free pizza I have had. This beats out every gluten-free frozen pizza too. I still think my homemade version is better, but not by much. The crust is thin, crisp, but not cracker-like. It is substantial enough to hold up to toppings and cheese without disintegrating. Oh and it doesn't taste like cardboard! It actually tastes pretty great, but the flavor does not outshine the toppings - and the cheese is worth a shout out. It is some of the best mozzarella I have had on a pizza. Guys, this pizza was so good, after it was devoured, I ordered a second one.

This is the look of surprise and shock at such a great crust. (Or I have been hypnotized by the neon green walls.)
 Yay for pizza!!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Caseus, a shop, a book, a give-away

Caseus means home. Ok, not really, it's Latin for cheese. But the book, Caseus Fromagerie Bistro Cookbook: Every Cheese Has a Story, strikes a balance and feels like home, weird uncle included.

I am totally biased. The author is a friend, and I helped test many of the recipes that don the pages, but you should keep reading because it's that good. There is a warmth and familiarity - the photos feel like you are thumbing through an old Time Life book, and are juxtaposed recipes that talk at and with you. (There are several fonts used throughout, one for the recipes, and others for tips, techniques, and stories.) So old-timey photography - check. Conversational writing - check. Oh and then there is the mildly lewd opening quote referencing a copy of Playboy. Weird uncle - check.

Caseus is filled with too many contradictions. It shouldn't work, but it does. There is a blending of family, friends, co-workers, personal favorites, restaurant classics, side-stories, gourmet and high-end ingredients peppered throughout comfort foods. On my second visit to the restaurant and cheese shop I saw t-shirt-and-jeans lunch goers enjoying an amazing grilled cheese, next to a couple in 3-piece suits celebrating with a bottle of very nice champagne. It shouldn't work, but it does, and Jason has done a pretty astounding job of capturing it, with humor, throughout 160 pages.

Mac n Cheese

Beef and Veal Stock - yes, the bovine are swimming

These staff and family profiles one of my favorite parts

Casoulette - this shot reminds me of 2008's fall bacon club

Really beautiful watercolors

A close up of the back wall in the cheese shop, covered with cheese stickers

Are you intrigued? Is your mouth watering? Do you want a copy... for free?!

Here are the rules. Follow them, and you are on your way to winning a copy of your own.

Book give-away rules:
-post a comment and tell me what your favorite cheese is
-one entry per person
-entries must be received before 10am on Friday, March 23
*Gluten-free special - if you win, I will convert 3 gluten-filled recipes of your choice, into gluten-free recipes

Restaurant week

My feelings have not wavered since I wrote about Restaurant Week. I have zero desire to go out in the middle of a week-long disaster of epic gustatory proportions. Recently recovering from food poisoning only adds fuel to my fury.

Monday, March 12, 2012

St. Patty's Day recipe round-up

St. Patrick's Day is one of my all time favorite holidays. I get to eat some of my favorite foods! (I am still holding out for a decent beer to round things up to a perfect meal.) Slightly sweet quick bread, garlic-y veggies and corned beef... it's food made to be shared. (There is no such thing as boiled dinner for one. Though if you are in a pinch, I did have a pretty decent version at Solas, in the Lenox hotel. They topped the cabbage, carrots, potatoes, turnips and beef, with a parsley butter. Traditional, no, but delicious - YES!)

If the mood strikes you, I present to you the choose-your-own-adventure, and difficulty level, recipes. Soda bread - easy. Corned Beef & Cabbage - medium. Brining your own beef from scratch - medium but time consuming and worth it!

Corned Beef & Cabbage (aka boiled dinner)

 Irish Soda Bread

Corned Beef (literally corning or pickling of the beef) recipe

What are some of your favorite March 17th traditions?

Friday, March 9, 2012

kale chips

I did not want to make them. Kale chips seem like the "hip new health food", and I admit that I am the type of person who baulks a bit at food trends. (I dislike cupcakes and 2008 did not change my mind.)

It took seeing a small 2oz package of kale chips for over $6 to break me. I got a pound of kale, went home, used the googler, and made a batch myself.

All the recipes seemed too simple. Wash kale. Remove stem. Toss with olive oil and salt. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes.

I was wrong. Really wrong. THESE ARE AWESOME!!
They have the crisp-ness and salt of a potato chip, but are more interesting and super thin. They almost shatter in your mouth (in a good way). They are so addictive I nearly polished off the entire batch!

Urfa pepper

It might be time, but I will never admit I have a problem. I collect dried herbs and spices. I sort of find unexplained joy and pleasure in trying a new one for the first time. There is a thrill to seeing something for the first time, mentally playing with what it might smell and taste like. Then there is the joy of trying to sniff the item through the packaging, without looking completely ridiculous (if you have figured this out, please share, I fail even when sniffing coffee). The whole way home I get to hem and haw about what this product MIGHT taste like, and what it might play well with in the kitchen.  

When I saw urfa pepper in the Armenian market in Watertown, MA I grabbed a bag and let out an audible "oooooh".

Here pictured next to a bag of alleppo pepper. (I couldn't resist them either, especially when I saw how oily the bright red flecks were)

The peppers are dried and sweated in the sun. The flavor is somewhat similar to an ancho; they are smokey and raisin-like, but urfas have an earthier quality, deeper smokey flavor that is less hot and less sweet. I love using it on roasted root vegetables and meat. It might be my new favor chile.