September 30, 2012

Kuroge Wagyu, squash, yogurt, smoked paprika taffy

Well, hello there.  

My goodness ... it's been a long time, hasn't it?  I've missed you all more than words can say, but since the last twelve months have been all about me writing words for other people, let me see if I even remember how to write words for myself.  What I thought might be a few months on hiatus from this project turned out to be a year, almost to the day.  Wow.  I did not expect that at all.

A few days after I posted my Hiatus post, I had the great good fortune to go to Chicago and have Chef Dave Beran's Tour of Thailand menu at Next.  Twice, in fact.  The food was so inspiring and flavorful and wondrous and jaw-dropping (permanently lodged in the Top Five Meals of My Life, no joke) that I was more motivated than ever to get back to this blog sooner than I'd planned.

Then, life got in the way.

Let me see if I can explain without boring you to tears.

First, I no longer work as a consultant, which means I no longer work from home.  Late last fall, there was a perfect storm of federal budget shenanigans around my two biggest clients, which happened right around the time a third client offered me a full-time job in-house.  It's an organization I knew well and a cause I am rather passionate about, so it was wonderful timing and a great place to hang my hat and have an impact on an issue that's important to me.

Now, I commute downtown to an office five days a week.  I don't have the time to cook during the week or on weekends like I used to.  And, for many months, I needed my nights and weekends to write this:


When the book was done, I had every intention of getting... WAIT.  Let me stop myself here.  You guys, I wrote a book.  Do you know how long I've wanted to do this?  Since first or second grade, if memory serves correctly.  It was a LOT of fun, and Mike was such a blast to work with.  I'm really proud of the book.  Really and truly.  

While I was working on the book, and a few months after, I was also using my nights and weekends to write other things for other people and do some product development work for some gluten-free food companies.  Mama's gotta pay the bills, you know.  There was also an unexpected amount of weddings and funerals and other curve balls that life throws at you from time to time.

Then, in early March, I had surgery.  It was a minor procedure that ended up having long-lasting recovery issues.  I won't get into detail (because talking about medical issues on food blogs is gross), but suffice to say it was a deep-tissue melanoma-related procedure on my head that caused me to have neuropathy and pain across my head, face, neck, and shoulders for, now, almost six months.  I'm almost completely back to normal.  But, that set me back way longer than it should have or that I ever wanted it to.  

I've also had some celiac-related things going on ... but, again, no one wants to hear about that.  Or, more accurately, I kind of don't want to talk about it.  It's particularly frustrating in that the symptoms I've been experiencing were all joint-related and neurological.  So, things like holding a knife properly became a challenge.  Standing for long periods of time was painful, as was sitting.  I have been a bit of a wreck.

When the Derecho came through the DC area in June, I was without power for six days and lost everything in my refrigerator and freezer.  All my everyday food.  Everything I'd prepped for the blog, knowing I wanted to get back to it soon.  Everything.  Many, many, MANY dollars worth of food gone.

So, as you can see, I haven't been able to really cook the way I know how and the way I love.  And, you know what?  It took a real emotional toll on me.  More than I knew, really.  Cooking calms me.  Chopping vegetables keeps me sane.  Spending two or three days on one recipe from the Alinea cookbook is a challenge and a thrill, and something I have missed so much.  I'm a better, happier person when I cook.  I know that.  

So, why am I back now?  Well, for one, I finally have a better handle on my time than I did before.  I am feeling healthy again, and able to be in the kitchen for long stretches of time.  And, because my chef friend, Carlos, told me I had to.  In late August on a rainy night at the beach, over our second or third glass of wine that night, he let me have it.  Told me I need to get back to cooking and writing here.  Said he was angry every time I posted something on Facebook that wasn't an update from this blog.  Said I needed to get back to working on this project.

He's right.

So, here I am.

I can't promise I'll be back at the same pace I was last year.  I'm still working in an office full-time.  I'm still working on other projects in the evenings and weekends.  But, I'm back to making this a priority in my life, because I need it.  Bad.

So, on Saturday morning, knife in hand, I started with this: 


And this evening, sat around the table with my neighbor friends, and we ate this: 


It looks nothing like the photo of this dish in the book.  I'm okay with that.

It tasted really damn good ... and if you have the book I strongly recommend you make the pumpkin-seed-paprika taffy.  Melt it on a steak.  Or a pork chop.  It is outstanding.

I didn't take any photos while cooking because I just wanted to focus on getting back into the feel of this book.  Gotta get my kitchen sea legs.  Almost there.

It's good to be back.

See you in a few weeks.  :)


Resources:  Everything from Whole Foods or HMart.

Music to Cook By:  Colin Hay; Going Somewhere.  Without fail, "Beautiful World" makes me smile big and wide.  And, "Waiting for My Real Life to Begin" makes me wish I knew how to play guitar.  This album is the perfect sunny Sunday afternoon kitchen soundtrack.

Read My Previous Post:  Hiatus

September 27, 2011


You know how when you play Tetris and the bricks don't line up and plonk into place like you need them to?  They keep piling up and piling up and piling up -- with odd little bits of blank space in between -- until your screen is filled and there's no more room for anything else to fall into place?  And you get stressed out beyond belief -- even though it is just a stupid video game -- because you want to fit more things in, and fit them in the right way, the efficient way -- and you can't?

That is my life right now.

I'm in a bit of a work-related transition at the moment, which, when it all plays out will be very good but at the time is incredibly stressful.  And of course, it's all coming during a time when Congress and our political climate are in a state of I-don't-even-know-what-to-call-it-anymore.

On top of everything, it is crunch time for Mike's book.

And, as much as I like to think I Can Do It All Because I Am Just That Awesome, I have to tell you: I can't.

Writing those two words -- I can't -- is something I know I've needed to do for the past few weeks, but haven't been able to bring myself to do because it makes me feel like a failure.  "I can't" is not usually in my vocabulary.  This is new for me, the letting go of some things I really love to do so I can get my shit together and realign and refocus.

Over the past few months, every time I made a shopping list for a dish for this blog, I got sidetracked to another client crisis.  Every week that I've set aside time to cook has been taken over by work I get paid to do.  And, when you're a self-employed single gal with a mortgage, you do the paid work.  Which isn't always the choice that makes me happy, but it's the grown-up thing we all have to do at one point or another, right?

So rather than drag this all out, I'm going on hiatus through the end of the year.  I'll be back in January sometime in 2012 when the dust has settled and my Tetris blocks are falling neatly into place and giving me room to add more.  This blog is the first thing back on the list.

I miss it already.

September 08, 2011

Chocolate, avocado, lime

Dessert: A Love Story

I'm in love.

With lime ice cream.  Sweet, tart, cold, smooth lime ice cream.  C'mere, you...


But, I have to confess: I am tempted to have a torrid, steamy, illicit affair with this lime curd:


Oh, lime curd... you wicked beast... what, with all your sugar and your eggs...


Oh, how you taunt me.  How you beckon me.  I mean, LOOK at all the BUTTER that went into you.  Oh, lime curd...


That's enough sweet, unsalted butter to make Paula Deen and Tony Bourdain get over their stupid Internet fight and come together in peace and harmony.

But am I willing to share my lime curd?  In its liquid form, no.  But after I dehydrated it for 56 hours (the book says it takes 12) and it still wasn't crisp and looked like pee-soaked drywall... the bloom was off the rose, my friends. Semi-dehydrated, kind of limp lime curd and I were over.

But, hey... who's that over there trying to make eye contact with me?  Trying to steal me away from the limes of my life?  Oh, well helllloooo there, chocolate mousse...

Look at you, all melty in the improvised double boiler.... trying to turn me all cliche like a Cathy comic...  Oh, and you over there... egg whites... what's that about wanting to be whipped...?  With some sugar?  I got your sugar....


And now you want to be gently folded in...?

Then lovingly spooned onto a dehydrator tray?  Why sure... I can do that... I got you, boo...

Who's your friend?  I think he's kinda cute, actually.  You're related?  I can see the resemblance.  Nice to meet you, pliable chocolate ganache...

I can't wait to slice you and curl you and bend you to my will.

But there's something over here I can't ignore.  Mint pudding.  Come over here, baby.  How you been?  I think you're kinda cool.  A little fresh, even...DSC_0001

You like it when I add xanthan gum and calcium ascorbate before whacking you around in the blender, don't you.  DON'T YOU.

Yeah, you do.

Someone's feeling a little left out, I can see.  Avocado purée, you're creamy and very nice, but I kinda just wanna be friends.  Is that okay?  It is?  Oh, good.  I'm glad.


I wonder if polyamory is okay in the dessert world.... 'cause I have fallen in deep, hard love with every single flavor in this dish... on their own, and all together:

Oh, and hey there, cocoa crumbs... I'm sorry I only have this one shot of you with the group.  But I'ma draw a heart around you when I put this picture up inside my locker so everyone will know how I feel about you.  MMMmmm....

Resources: Green & Black's chocolate and cocoa; 365 butter; Domino sugar; Smith Meadows Farm eggs; gelatin sheet, glucose, and sorbitol from L'Epicerie; agar agar, malic acid, and xanthan gum from Terra Spice; Natural by Nature heavy cream and skim milk; David's kosher salt; mint leaves from my garden; Now Foods calcium ascorbate; limes and avocados from Shoppers Food Warehouse; licorice extract from HerbalRemedies.

Music to Cook By: No Doubt; Rock Steady.  I don't know why, but I've been in a No Doubt mood the last few days. I love Tragic Kingdom, too, but had Rock Steady on loop most of the weekend. I hadn't listened to it in ages, and when it came out I didn't really love it.  Now?  It's grown on me.

Read My Previous Post: Pork Cheek, pumpernickel, gruyere, ramps


August 31, 2011

New Post Coming Soon

So, I went to Napa for a little vacation and had a wonderful, relaxing time with my friends.  I was actually kinda bummed to have missed the earthquake, but happy there was no damage here at the homestead. 

I had planned to go to straight to the beach from the airport when I got home, but a little thing called Hurricane Irene got in the way.  I hunkered down here at the house, and was glad I trusted my instincts not to buy any ingredients to bang out some Alinea dishes over the weekend because, sure enough, we lost power for a few days and I would've lost all that (expensive) food.

The electricity went back on last night and has, thus far, stayed on so I hit the grocery store and got started on one of the Alinea desserts tonight.  If the first component of the dish I made is ANY indication of how this whole thing is going to taste, then I'm going to be a VERY happy camper.

Hoping to have a post for you by the end of Labor Day weekend.

Enjoy these last few days of summer, you guys....


August 11, 2011

Pork Cheek, pumpernickel, gruyere, ramps: Achatz and Ziebold together in my kitchen. Um, sort of.

My kindergarten teacher died a few days ago. 

Her name was Selma Rosenfeld, and she whole-heartedly and enthusiastically recognized and nurtured my love of reading and writing.  Thanks to my mom and dad reading with me and getting me to do writing workbooks and tell stories when I was little, I already knew how to read and write all my letters and many words before I started kindergarten.  So while the other kids were using the Letter People to learn the alphabet, Mrs. Rosenfeld gave me some extra assignments to do during class time so I wouldn't get bored.

It was through those assignments Mrs. Rosenfeld taught me that not only did letters make words, but that words made sentences (!!), and sentences made stories (!!!).  Selma Rosenfeld taught me how to write.

There is one day in particular I remember so clearly: our class was listening to a song about Mister M with his Munching Mouth.  And, because there was a line in the song about Mister M liking macaroni, she brought in a hotplate, a small saucepan, and a box of elbow macaroni, which she let me help her cook.  We drained it carefully in the sink at the back of the room, then added a little butter and salt before doling out very small portions in tiny paper cups so everyone in the class could have a taste.  I remember writing a story about macaroni that day, and trying to use as many words as I could think of that started with the letter M.  I got to eat macaroni, help my favorite teacher, and write a story?  It was a very good day.

Growing up being me wasn't easy.  I was a weird nerd who never really quite fit in.  But throughout my elementary school career, whenever things seemed rough or I was made fun of, or a teacher told me to stop "showing off" by getting A+ grades on my tests (yes, that really happened), I would steel myself from crying on my walk home and just think about how Mrs. Rosenfeld was the only person in the world who really "got" me.  And, I'll tell you this: there have been days, even as an adult, when I've thought about her and how special she made me feel.  I hope you have, or have had, someone in your life like her.

Mrs. Rosenfeld moved away from our little town ages and ages ago, and was living in Oregon when she died.  She and I corresponded over the years, and my last email from her was in 2008.  She had read some of my writing in our hometown newspaper, and on different blogs and websites and, once again, told me how proud she was of me.

She was a very special lady, and a very big reason why I am still so drawn to the written word, and why I still can't fall asleep at night until I've written something, anything.  So thank you, Mrs. Rosenfeld.  Thank you.

*   *   *   *   *

Oh my word, you guys.  Debt ceilings.  Supercommittees.  August recess.  Major stressors in all our lives in Washington (and around the country, yes?) right now.  So, I was really, really looking forward to spending a day or two in the kitchen focusing on this dish.  I had a (mostly) free weekend and was stoked to be cooking.  It felt good.  So, so good.  Even better when I knew I was going to be working with pig cheeks!  Who doesn't love a pig's cheek and jowl meat?

There are a few swap-outs in this dish due to gluten issues, one skipped ingredient because it's already out of season, and one gift from a chef that has extra-special meaning.  Let's get going...

I had to start this dish three days before I was going to eat it because one of the elements required three solid days of dehydrating:


I diced the onions and caramelized them in some canola oil in a large sauté pan.


I know this is nothing new, but the smell of onions caramelizing?  It made me completely forget about everything in my outside world.  For those 30 minutes, I just breathed deeply and luxuriated in that familiar, homey, warm, lovely smell and was incredibly relaxed.  Which makes me think I should open a spa that specializes in food scents rather than a Yankee Candle Store exploding in your face and suffocating you during a massage.  Ahem.

I spread the onions on two dehydrator trays, set the temperature to 145 (the highest it would go), closed the door, and let them dry.  It took the full three days for them to dry out and become crispy-ish.  When they were ready to be ground, they looked like this:


I ground them in a coffee grinder I use for spices and making powders.  I also added some ground caraway seeds, and thus, the onion powder was done:

I'll confess that I looooaaaaathe caraway.  I can't stand the smell of it (it triggers my gag reflex) and I don't like the taste of it.  Even the look of those little seeds reminds me of those denture adhesive commercials that used to air during The Price is Right when I was a kid.  Double-ew-gross, right?  Please tell me I'm not alone in my caraway hatred.  Please, I beg you.

But, I put on my big-girl pants and forged ahead, hoping it wouldn't ruin the dish and give me a case of the sadz.

While the onions were dehydrating, I made the pig cheek marinade: Worcestershire sauce, white wine, kosher salt, garlic cloves, onion, leek, and carrots all brought to a simmer.


I prepared a sachet of peppercorns, bay leaves, more caraway seed (ack, barf, gag), whole cloves, and allspice:

And placed the sachet into the marinade, removed the pot from the heat, and let it cool to room temperature:

Got my pig cheeks all ready to go:


I removed the silverskin and as much fat as I could (which definitely made for a smaller piece of meat to cook), and placed it in a Ziploc sous vide bag with the marinade to rest in the fridge overnight.


Let me note here, that I only made one pork cheek, even though the recipe called for 8.  I did this for two reasons: 1) The farmer I bought the cheek from only had one; and 2) all the neighbors were out of town this particular weekend, so I was on my own in terms of serving this, and honestly, I wanted to make myself a really nice dinner on Sunday night and this seemed like the perfect thing.  Apart from the caraway, obvs.

One other thing I did the day before serving this (TO MYSELF) was Microplane some gruyere cheese onto a parchment-lined baking sheet so it could dry overnight.



On the great day of eating, I cooked the pig cheek sous vide in a 180F-degree water bath for five hours, and made the plumped raisin ragout and sauce.  I talked about this dish with some of my friends the week leading up to cooking it, and do you know what I found out?  They all HATE raisins.  Every last one of them.

Swollen ticks. -- Bonnie Benwick

GROSS. -- Joe Yonan

Flies without wings. -- Me

Now, golden raisins are different.  Better.  Kind of awesome, in fact.  I don't hate those at all! [And please don't ask me why.  I can't explain it.  I'm weird. You know that.]  So, I used golden raisins in this element of the dish.

In a medium saucepan, I caramelized diced onion, then added raisins, Worcestershire sauce, a garlic clove, and water, then covered the pot and let the mixture simmer for about 30 minutes.


I ladled out 100g of that mixture and reserved it for the raisin ragout.  I poured the rest of the liquid through a chinois, reserving both solids and liquid.  I blended the solids in my blender until it was the consistency of a thick sauce (like slightly runny polenta), adding a little of the liquid as I blended to smooth it out a bit.

I folded a little of the sauce into the raisin-onion mixture I'd held back for the ragout, and it looked like this:

I'm sorry it looks like baby poo.  I tried to shoot it many different ways, and, well, this one was the least offensive.

I saved the rest of the raisin-onion sauce and used it later in plating.

I skipped the green garlic step because green garlic is out of season right now in DC, no one was carrying it at the farmers market, and so I just didn't do it.

The recipe called for razor-thin shavings of pumpernickel bread atop the final plate of food but since I loathe pumpernickel as much as I loathe caraway, I decided to, instead, make my own bread crumbs/chunks using Rudi's gluten-free bread, some olive oil, and a little salt.  Just whacked a slice or two of the bread in my food processor, tossed them in olive oil and salt, and toasted them in a 350F-degree oven for 15 minutes.

The last thing to do was to finish cooking the pig cheek.  Here it is, out of its sous vide bag after having cooled in a bowl of ice water to room temperature.


I dusted the cheek in a mixture of rice flour and tapioca flour, then dunked it in heavy cream, then coated it in bread crumbs (couldn't find gluten-free panko).  Sautéed it in a bit of canola oil...

I made sure both sides were browned evenly, then put the pan in the oven with a bit of butter and let it roast at 350F degrees for 10 minutes.  Took the pig cheek out and let it drain on a paper-towel lined baking sheet.

The recipe instructed to bread just one side of the cheek, but I never get to eat breaded and fried food anymore, so I went hog-wild and did both sides.  Because I can.

If you have the book, or read the title of this post, you might be wondering about the pickled ramps this dish calls for.  I know in the springtime my food-loving friends go cuckoo-bananas over ramps.  They're just... not my thing.  I never understood the hype.  It's not that I don't like them.  They're fine.  They're good, actually, but I just never understood the celebratory nature behind RAAAAAAAAMMPSS!!!! WOOO-HOOOO RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMPS!!!!!!one!!!!!!eleven!!!!!!

So, I didn't have any ramps to pickle (they went out of season months ago), and I hadn't pickled any when they were in season.  The day before I finished this dish, I texted a few friends in town to see if they had any, and they didn't.  So, I decided I'd swap in pickled chard stems (which I make all summer long because I love their crunchy-pickley goodness in a salad or slaw). Done and done.  Problem solved.  Until....

The night before I served this dish, I ate dinner at CityZen here in Washington.  As you may or may not know, CityZen owner and chef, Eric Ziebold, worked with Grant Achatz at The French Laundry way back in the day, and stories abound about their friendly competitiveness in that famous Yountville kitchen.  It is such a pleasure and such a treat to have Eric here in Washington, because his food is, quite simply, extraordinary.  And, there's really no better deal in town than Eric's tasting menu at the bar.

My friend, Joe, and I sat down at the bar to begin what became a night of near-sinful amounts of eating, I noticed something in one of the dishes on the menu: pickled ramps.

Dare I ask for some "to go" after we'd finished our meal?


And thus, I, in my own way, brought Eric Ziebold and Grant Achatz together into my teeny, tiny kitchen the next day, and celebrated them both on this plate:


Pork cheek atop the raisin sauce ragout and some toasted breadcrumbs, topped with dried Gruyere, chives, pickled ramps, the onion-caraway powder, and a little sea salt:

I carried my plate to the dining room table, pushed the Sunday papers aside, poured myself a glass of wine, turned on some music, and sat down to take my first bite.

Oh, you guys.... I got a little weepy.  I'm not sure why.  I mean, I think it was maybe the first time I'd allowed myself to relax in the past few weeks and acutally enjoy a meal at home without reading email, writing position papers, or handling a client's crisis.  I think it was that it was Sunday evening, the sun had started to sink in the sky a bit, I was tired and drained and so, so hungry... and this dish was so, so good.  It blew away any expectation I ever had for it.  I knew it was going to be different than the original dish in the book because I'd made some adjustments and gluten-accommodations.  And, whenever I make something different, I often tell myself it's not going to be as good as it should be.

That's kind of assy to do to myself, isn't it?

So, I think I'd set myself up to think, well at least it probably won't totally suck because, hello, it's a pig cheek, but it blew me away. 

The pig cheek was so tender and lush and rich and silky.  The raisin-onion sauce was sweet and pungent and salty.  The dried Gruyere was a touch I wouldn't have thought of, but one that was needed (and very much loved).  The pickled ramps were absolutely outstanding.  And I didn't really taste any caraway AT ALL.  So, major score on that front!

I have a lot of the marinade left over, so I have a pork chop thawing in the fridge right now, and will baste that marinade on it as I grill that chop tonight, then top it with all the leftover elements of this dish.  Can't wait!


Up Next: Not sure yet, but probably one of the dishes with seedless watermelon, 'cause those things are bustin' out all over the place at the farmers market.

Resources: Pickled ramps from the always-amazing Eric Ziebold (thank you, Chef!); produce and Gruyere from Whole Foods; 365 butter and canola oil; Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce; caraway seed peppercorns, other dried aromats, and fresh bay leaves from the TPSS Co-op; Acrobat 2009 Oregon pinot gris; Bob's Red Mill flours; Natural by Nature heavy cream; Glutino bread crumbs; Rudi's gluten-free multi-grain bread; chives from my garden; pig parts from Truck Patch Farm.

Music to Cook By: Will you laugh at me if I tell you it was Roxette's Greatest Hits?  Because it was.  On a non-stop loop for 3 days.  

Read My Previous Post: Hazelnut, apricot, curry-scented granola

July 24, 2011

Hazelnut, apricot, curry-scented granola

2011 is weird.  So freakin' weird.

I don't know how else to explain my absences from this blog.  It drives me crazy.  All I think about all day long is food and cooking and what I'm making for dinner that night, and which Alinea dish I want to cook next.

But, with the kind of work I'm doing right now for my clients -- coupled with the state of affairs in Washington (you watch the news; you know what I'm talking about) -- I really feel like I don't have a life anymore.  I mean, yes, I do get out every now and then to see friends and am not a complete and total hermit.  But.  My time is not my own these days.  There is a lot of hurry-up-and-wait.  There are also a lot of meetings that require days and nights of prep, just in time for them to be canceled because of potential federal budget cuts, and other shenanigans here in our nation's capital.  And, to complicate matters further, I'm actually working downtown three days a week in a client's office, so I don't have as much time here at the house during the week to cater to my food life as I used to.  I miss it.

It's frustrating.  And yes, while I am beyond grateful to have work and an income and the ability to pay my mortgage, I am looking forward to the month of August when the city shuts down, Congress goes on its August recess, and the pace becomes closer to normal.  I need to catch my breath. 

Much to my surprise -- in between my "day job," the book writing, and this new project I started earlier in the month -- I had an unexpected two days off this weekend... well, big chunks of time on two consecutive days, really, so I made my shopping list, and got to work on an Alinea dish.

It felt SO GOOD to be in my kitchen for more than 7 minutes at a time.  It also didn't hurt that it was 900 frajillion degrees outside, so to have something fun to do in my cool air-conditioned house was a bonus.

I started with the hazelnut pudding.  I toasted some hazelnuts for about 15 minutes in a 350F-degree oven, and then added them to a pan of simmering whole milk.  The smell of the toasted hazelnuts and milk simmering hit home for me that feeling I get when I smell someone drinking that horrifying hazelnut-"flavored" coffee, or using one of those jank-ass hazelnut cream substitutes in their coffee or tea.  THAT is not a hazelnut smell (or taste, frankly).  What was going on in my kitchen in this saucepan?  THIS is hazelnut.  Plain and simple.


I turned off the burner and let the mixture come to room temperature, then covered the pan and stored in the refrigerator overnight.

The following morning, I got started on the apricot-curry sauce.  I brought some dried apricots and water to a boil, then turned off the burner and let them steep for a half hour:


I poured the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer and reserved the liquid, which came out to 289g -- I needed 300g of the apricot-infused water to keep moving forward with this element of the dish, so I was in decent shape.  I poured the 289g of liquid into a small saucepan and added sweet curry powder and saffron, and simmered until it had reduced to a thicker syrupy-like consistency.  


I strained that through a fine-mesh strainer and added a bit of fresh-squeezed lemon juice.  Then, I whisked in some canola oil to emulsify it before adding a few grams of salt.  You'll see the sauce in the final plating photo.

While the apricots were steeping in the hot water in that earlier step, I made the hazelnut granola.  One of the things I really like about the Alinea cookbook is that it introduced me to the concept of savory granola.  I'd been making my own sweet granola for years, but had never made a savory or curry granola before.

Get a load of this goodness:


Puffed wild rice, honey, canola oil, sweet and hot curry powder, chopped hazelnuts, old-fashioned rolled oats, and freshly ground black pepper

I roasted the granola in a 350F-degree oven for 15 minutes, stirring it every 3-4 minutes, so it wouldn't burn.

While that cooled, I took the hazelnut and milk mixture out of the refrigerator and poured it all into the blender and pureed it on high speed for a minute or two.  Then, I strained it through a chinois and poured that liquid back into the blender (which I'd rinsed out), and added some high-acyl gellan gum and some hazelnut oil and blended it until it was thicker and creamier than it had been. (sorry, forgot to photograph this step)

The book then suggests I put this mixture into a Pacojet canister with the aeration attachment and process it for on full cycle.  Yeah.  I didn't do that because I sadly don't own a Pacojet.  So, I did the next best thing: whipped the hell out of it with my Kitchen Aid, using a chilled bowl.

Hey, gotta improvise.  [But, I think my final plating photo will show that I do, in fact, NEED a Pacojet, so whoever wants to just send me one, please feel free to do so.  I'll give it a good home, I promise.]

The last step is one of the most important ones, because it is supposed to (foreshadowing!) yield the most beautiful translucent apricot-colored and -flavored cylinder to encase the savory granola.  The photos of this dish in the book are just gorgeous (particularly the cylinder full of granola), and I couldn't wait to just NAIL this step and feel like the Queen of Everything.

I started by heating and melting together isomalt, fondant, and glucose powder:


Now, the book says to bring it all the way up to 320F degrees, but it started to get really, really dark at 260-270, and then smelled really burny at 280, so I took it to 300 and then poured it onto a Silpat-lined baking sheet, per the book's instructions, to cool/harden:


Uuuuuuummmmmmmm, I do not think that is a translucent, apricotty color AT ALL.  It got slightly lighter when I ground it to a powder along with some freeze-dried apricots, but....


I had a feeling this was not going to end well.

After grinding it into a fine powder, the book instructs to sift the powder onto a Silpat-lined baking sheet in a thin layer and put that baking sheet in a 200F-degree oven so the powder will melt into a bendy film-like substance that you can cut into rectangles that you'll then roll around a 1" dowel to make cylinders.

Which... well....


Yeah.  Not so much.

Kinda looked like a hippie flaxseed cracker gone horribly wrong.

I decided to abandon this portion of our program, and just go straight to the elements that DID work and see if I could salvage the dessert somehow. 

I'd filled a few little parfait glasses with the hazelnut pudding so it could chill and set in the refrigerator.  Then, I topped that with a layer of the apricot-curry sauce (which looks like it's missing in the photo below because it sunk right into the pudding), and then sprinkled some granola on top:



I took a bite, and holy saltballs, Batman!  I went back and re-read the entire recipe to make sure I hadn't messed up my salt measurements in any of the dish's components, and I hadn't.  It was just so, so salty -- and this, coming from a girl who has a healthy respect for salt in her cooking.  I broke off a few pieces of the not-cylinders (since that was a sweet component of the dish and I thought it might balance the next bite) and tossed those in before taking another bite, but it didn't make it any better.

It also didn't help that the hazelnut pudding ended up being not pudding... and instead was more like a melted milkshake:



But, in the spirit of trying to find the bright side, I guess this means there's lots of leftover curry granola for me to sprinkle onto some Greek yogurt for breakfast this week.  Maybe top it with some nectarine slices... a drizzle of honey.

Cloud, meet silver lining.

Up Next: Pork Cheek, pumpernickel, gruyere, ramps

Resources: Hazelnuts, honey, curry powders, saffron, lemons, and apricots from the TPSS Co-op; Natural by Nature milk; Domino sugar; David's kosher salt; high-acyl gellan gum from Terra Spice; La Tourangelle hazelnut oil; 365 canola oil; Lundberg rice; Bob's Red Mill gluten-free oats; glucose powder and isomalt from L'Epicerie; fondant from Michaels; Honeyville freeze-dried apricots.

Music to Cook By: A hefty backlog of podcasts -- Nerdist, KCRW Good Food; Splendid Table; and NPR Fresh Air.

Read My Previous Post: Sunday Dinner; English peas, tofu, ham, pillow of lavender air

June 27, 2011

Sunday Dinner (or, English peas, tofu, ham, pillow of lavender air)

I hate the Sunday night blues. 

You know what I mean.  That wee sense of dread that sets in, oh, at about 4 or 5 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, when you realize your weekend is coming to an end and you have to work the next day.  You didn't get all your errands done.  There wasn't enough time to finish the book you're reading. You really don't want the next week to begin because it's summer winter whenever, and you just want a little more down time because you aren't in the mood to be a worker bee the next day.

The only remedy I know of to cure the Sunday night blues is to have friends over for an early dinner.  Good music, good wine, great food, and low expectations.  Nothing fancy.  Easy clean-up.  Fun music.  Just a little marker in the weekend to stave off the blahs for a few hours.  By the time you finish eating, clear the table, and load the dishwasher, it's nearly time to head to bed. 

After the Saturday I had, Sunday dinner was the only way I could redeem myself.

So, what happened Saturday? 

Soy milk pustules tumors awfulness!


You guys, I did everything by the book.  Bought the dried soybeans, soaked the soybeans overnight, drained and blended the soybeans with water, heated the now-soymilk, skimmed the foam off the soymilk, strained the soymilk, reheated the soymilk, let the skin form over the soymilk, lifted the skins from the soymilk, let the skins dry then formed them into clumps... and then... they just got all coagulated and smelled weird, and just did not look or feel or seem even remotely close to anything they needed to be.  The skins (before piling them up) were supposed to dry "in a few hours or overnight."  After 18 hours, they were still pretty wet, and they smelled strange.  Add to that the fact that I was supposed to have five times the soy milk left over than I actually did, so I couldn't even move forward with the rest of the dish without starting all over again by soaking more soybeans for 8 hours... and I just... well...

So, I made the executive decision to adapt this into something else.  Didn't want all my other ingredients to go to waste.  I'm kinda bummed about it (I even bought nigari when I was in New York last week so I could make my own tofu; alas, another time), but I am nothing if not resourceful, and turned it into a whole Sunday dinner menu I'm still full from eating.

On Sunday morning, I texted my neighbors and told them instead of a Sunday afternoon tasting, they were invited to dinner.  I'd make something sort of resembling this dish as part of it, and figure out the rest.

I went to the farmers' market and picked up two chickens and some sausages (basil-garlic-beef, and spicy Italian veal).  I roasted the chickens and grilled the sausages.  Protein?  Done and done.  I whipped up a summer salad of grilled Romaine lettuce (chiffonade), sweet white corn, tomato, shallot, zucchini, green beans, yellow wax beans, and yellow squash, with a cumin vinaigrette.  I also roasted asparagus in olive oil, salt, and pepper.

And, I re-fashioned this Alinea dish into a kind of bruschetta.

I sliced an Against the Grain gluten-free baguette on the diagonal, rubbed both sides with olive oil, and toasted them under the broiler in the oven.  Then, I slathered each slice of bread with gooseberry sauce (had some in the freezer; left over from this dish) and yuzu mayonnaise (added a few splishes of yuzu juice to homemade mayo).  Then, I topped them with a buttery mixture of blanched English peas (from the farmer's market), diced ham, and lavender-infused tofu.  I bought soft, silken tofu from the local co-op in town, heated it to break it down to small crumbles resembling cottage cheese, and cooked it for a bit with dried lavender wrapped in cheese cloth.  I removed the lavender sachet and added the ham and peas and some butter to pull it all together.  Atop that on the bread?  Pea shoot leaves and lavender salt:


And you know what?  It was f-ing AWESOME.  Even the kids (who, this winter, were not really loving my adventurous cooking) gobbled this up.  One of them said (with his mouth full), "This bread thing is REALLY GOOD."  They wanted more.

So, there you have it.  My first foray back into the kitchen after a nearly month-long break and I CAN'T EVEN MAKE SOYMILK.  But I can whip up a dinner party with just a few hours' notice and adapt the heck out of an Alinea dish as part of it.

Not too shabby.

You might recall that in the original version of this dish, there's a pillow filled with lavender air the plate is set atop so the scent is release as you're eating.  I've experienced that at Alinea, and it is really quite lovely.  As for me doing it here at home?  Well, honestly, it was never gonna happen.  First, I cannot sew. And when I priced the pillow shams I could use, I just thought my money was better spent on ingredents.  Second, I don't want to buy a vaporizer.  And, third?  Well, there is no third thing; it just felt odd leaving it at two.

*   *   *   *   *

As far as my health goes, I want to thank you all so, so much for your sweet comments in the previous post, and for your lovely emails and Tweets.  You guys just make a girl get all smooshy inside.

Here's the latest health news on this front: in the grand scheme of life, I am fine.  I am not sick.  I am not allergic to anything else, nor do I have any new autoimmune issues.  That's the good news.  What kind of sucks is that my body now doesn't really know how to process dairy and fruit.  Could be celiac-related, but probably not.  No one knows.  Could be permanent, also might be temporary.  Could be only when it's the two of them together, or maybe as individual items.  Still trying to figure it all out.  Again... not allergic.  It's more of a metabolic/digestive/bacterial thing.  Either separately or together, in my body, casein (the protein in dairy) and fructose (natural fruit sugar) attacks the good bacteria in my gut and also suppresses leptin (a protein hormone in the human body that helps regulate our metabolism and determining what gets converted into energy).  That's what we know now.  That might change, or it might be the final landing point.

After a few weeks of what seemed like endless tests and adjustments to an elimination diet, my bloodwork is now back to normal and I feel really, really good.  Everything is working again; I'm sleeping 7, 8 hours a night, the headaches are gone, I have really good energy during the day, and I no longer feel like I'm carrying a 70-pound tumor in my abdomen and around my lower back (which is what made me go down this rabbit hole in the first place).

So essentially, at every meal, my plate is now 3/4 vegetables and 1/4 protein.  No fruit, no dairy, and limited (gluten-free) grains.  At the beginning of all this, the mere notion that I might have to completely eliminate fruit and dairy from my diet seemed traumatic, but it's actually a lot easier than it sounds.  And, it's not like I have to completely eliminate it.  I will not die from eating a few blackberries.  A bit of milk or cream in my coffee will not land me in the ICU.  The world will not end if I eat a peach (Best Fruit in the World™).  However, having those things every day is just not something I can do anymore (at least for the time being), and that's okay with me.

When you look at the big picture, I'd say that 80% of what I eat is food that I cook here at home, so when I go out, it'll be okay if I have a little dairy or fruit.  So, it all ends up working itself out.  But, it was really frustrating getting there.  I really thought I had a 70-pound tumor (and thus, my own reality show contract) or was losing my mind.  Or both.  Seriously.

But again, thank you for your sweet notes and check-ins.  You guys are just the cat's pajamas.

Up Next:  Pork Cheek, or one of the remaining Chocolate dishes

Resources: Against the Grain baguette from Whole Foods; tofu from the TPSS Co-op; everything else from the Takoma Park and 14th and U Streets farmers' markets.

Music to Cook By: DO NOT LAUGH AT ME but I am toooooooooootally into the Seals & Crofts Pandora channel.  It's got that AM Gold feel, and it's simply fantastic. [stop laughing]  [dude]  [I mean it] [no really, I SAID I MEAN IT]

Read My Previous Post: What I've Learned So Far...

June 21, 2011

Brushing away the cobwebs.... and sharing some big news.

:::: tap tap taps on the microphone ::::

"Hellllooooo...... anyone out there?"

Hi, you guys.  Bet you've been wondering where I've been.

(Maybe you haven't.  That's okay, too.  My feelings won't be hurt.  Much.)

Two things to tell you:

1) I've had to take a break from cooking because I'm having some health issues.  It's nothing serious or fatal or life-threatening.  But, it's weird and (frustratingly, once again) diet-related.  The experts are sorting everything out and beginning to uncover some odd triggers that are making certain numbers in my bloodwork go all wackadoo, thus affecting my baseline physical health.  I'm ready to turn my body over to science because I feel like a lab experiment with all the tracking and measuring and poking and prodding and scanning and needles and testing.  I'll share more details when I have more information (in case anyone else out there has/has had the same symptoms) and when I know more about what my food future will look like.

2) One thing I do know about my food future is this: I am writing a book.  With Mike Isabella.  And I couldn't be more excited!  You might know Mike from Top Chef and Top Chef All-Stars.  Or, you might know Mike because you ate at Zaytinya when he was executive chef.  Mike's new restaurant, Graffiato, opens this week, and if you're in Washington or you're visiting my lovely city in the future, I hope you'll add Graffiato to your must-eat list.  Mike and I have already begun working on the book -- his wife, Stacy, is doing all the recipe testing -- and I can't wait for you to read it and cook from it.

Off to the grocery store on Thursday morning, and back to cooking this weekend.  I can't take it anymore.  I miss my kitchen.  I miss this blog.  I miss all of you.

So, get ready for some English peas and ham and lavender, and my attempts to make my own tofu.  After which, if I buy a hackeysack, join a drum circle, and braid my armpit hair, please come rescue me.  Please.  I BEG YOU.

See you soon.

May 31, 2011

What I've Learned So Far...

This past weekend, I made the Squab, Thai peppercorn, strawberry, oxalis pods dish, when something odd happened. I'd made arrangements to get oxalis pods from a grower I know out in Virginia, and he called me Friday morning to tell me most of his oxalis plants got hammered in a hailstorm the day before, and he had none for me.  I'd already bought everything else to start making the dish, so I made a few phone calls to try and find oxalis pods.

My usual suspects weren't turning anything up, so I called a few chef friends.  When I told them what had happened and what I was looking for I heard myself say, "Yeah, my oxalis pod guy called and said..." and then it hit me:  I have an oxalis pod guy?

Five years ago, if you had told me I would one day say that "my oxalis pod guy" said this or that, I would a) wonder what the hell an oxalis pod was; and 2) wonder what douche planet I was living on.


Oh yeah, riiiiight. I do.  You know what else I have?  A squab guy.  Who gets my order ready like so:


Call me old-fashioned, but the tag tied to the bag with butchers twine makes me very happy. 

As for the oxalis pods, I ended up not being able to find any, so when I did the Squab dish I didn't do the neutral-caramel squares that surrounded the oxalis pods, but it's no biggie.  I didn't miss out on learning any new technique in not doing them.  And, when you see the final plating photo at the end of this post, you'll see an even bigger reason they weren't really missed.

I should say now that, for this dish, I'm not going to do the standard step-by-step, photo play-by-play like I do in all my other posts.  Why?  Well, I realized that I have completed all but 30 dishes in this cookbook.  There are 127 in total.  I have 30 left to do.  Just 30.  Granted, some of them are six-pagers (lookin' at YOU, Wild Bass and Bean), but still. I only have 30 dishes left to go.  I can't believe it.

As I cooked this dish over the weekend, I thought a lot about what it's been like to cook my way through the Alinea cookbook.  I thought about where I was in my cooking life when I'd finished French Laundry at Home and was getting ready to start this blog.  I thought about the people I've met.  I thought about the ingredients I've learned about.  I thought about how hard the men and women work in the Alinea kitchen.  I thought about the meals I've had at Alinea.  I thought about what I've done well and what was a complete flop.  I've learned a lot these past two+ years:

  1. I still get an adrenaline rush when I open the book to a new recipe I haven't yet made.
  2. Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas are two of the nicest, most generous and supportive people you could ever have the great fortune to know.
  3. Judy Shertzer from Terra Spice is not only one of the kindest, most generous people I've met, she's a badass hilarious funny lady I am so happy to call my friend.
  4. Steve Stallard at BLiS produces not just the finest roe, but also a maple syrup you will want to find a way to eat every single day.
  5. Months before I started this blog, two very prominent men in the food world told me I was "crazy" to think about cooking anything from this book.  In fact, they both told me, separately, that I couldn't do it.  Which, of course, made me want to prove them wrong.  I think I am.
  6. My kitchen gets the most beautiful natural light in the morning.  I never noticed it until I started learning how to photograph food.
  7. Figuring out gluten-free substitutions for some of these recipes has given me more than one migraine, but hearing from chefs, cooks, and restaurateurs that they've actually consulted my blog for those kinds of swap-outs when they have celiac customers more than makes up for it.
  8. Speaking of celiac, I've learned that you guys go above and beyond the call of duty in the comments section (and via email) when a girl is feeling down and out in gluten land.
  9. If you are a person of a certain age who has been addicted to television for most of her life and you say, or even think the words "squab stock" you will immediately turn it into, "squab stock, squab stock, squab... squab... stock."
  10. Ditto onion JAM.
  11. When I injure myself, you guys are HILARIOUS.
  12. When there's a worthy cause, you're the most generous people in the whole world, and you make me cry (in a good way) just thinking about it.
  13. I've always adored my neighbors, but seeing how willing they are to try new foods and taste everything I make, makes me adore them even more.  They're not just neighbors, they're some of my closest friends, and I'm lucky to have them in my life.
  14. Because I'm cooking my way through this book, I am more patient now than I've ever been in my whole life.
  15. Developing a casserole recipe based on the food from a world-class restaurant is easier than you might think.
  16. Cooking dishes that require intense focus are a good way to work through the grieving process.
  17. My house has never smelled better than when I cook something from the Alinea cookbook.
  18. Seeing clean plates at the end of a tasting with my neighbors makes me happier than I ever thought possible.
  19. The sound a squab's head makes when it clonks along the side of your stainless steel kitchen sink is a little unnerving (not as bad as cutting off the faces of softshell crabs, though).
  20. And, I've learned you can take something kinda ugly:

And turn it into a thing of beauty:


My neighbors and I decided at the last minute to do a cookout on Monday evening, so rather than forcing them to come to my house for a tasting before firing up the grill three houses away, I thought I'd just plate the Squab family-style and bring it over to the cookout. Hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, coleslaw, salad, fresh melon, and a Squab dish from the Alinea cookbook.  This is how we roll in Takoma Park. 

You guys, this dish was SO FREAKIN' GOOD.  Really and truly.  Red-ribbon and regular sorrel, pepper custard, squab rillettes, macerated wild strawberries (from my front yard!), diced strawberries, seared squab breast, and strawberry sauce made with squab stock... an amazing, flavorful combination that smelled great every step of the way and was so incredibly satisfying at the end of a long weekend.  There were clean (paper) plates all around -- even the kids ate every last bite.  Happiness abides.

If you want to see all the photos, they're here.

You know what's the biggest thing I've learned in doing this blog?  That I am incredibly lucky that you guys are as fantastic as you are.  I rarely, if ever, have to delete dick-ish comments.  There's no fighting in the comments.  No shitstorms.  No hate email.  No drama.  You guys are respectful of the food, of each other, and of this process... and I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world.  Your support of this project has made me more confident every step of the way, and I feel like, especially with this dish, you can taste that confidence on the plate.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  I am a lucky, lucky girl.

Now, go on then... make yourself some squab with strawberries and sorrel. 

And let's savor these next 30 dishes, shall we?  I kinda don't want this to end.

May 17, 2011

Prosciutto, passion fruit, zuta levana

Last Monday evening, I ran into these guys:


And, really... isn't that how we'd all love to spend every Monday night?  In the presence of those who inspire, teach, motivate, (and intimidate) us?

Going to the James Beard Awards and seeing Chef Keller and Chef Achatz (among many, many other chefs and industry folks I admire and adore) couldn't have come at a better time. I desperately needed that time in New York, and to be surrounded by people who love to cook and eat.  It was a fun night seeing everyone looking so glam and so full of energy.  I had a blast in the press room with my fellow writers and media folks, as well as at the after-party at Per Se where we celebrated their win for Outstanding Service, and it was just an all-around great night.  I am a lucky, lucky girl.

And, it was the perfect way to kick off a week in which I knew I'd be making a dish from the Alinea cookbook that has intimidated me from the get-go: Prosciutto, passion fruit, zuta levana.  

If you have the Alinea cookbook, turn to page 144 and just look at that beautiful thing.  It's one of the first pages I looked at when I first got the book, and I remember thinking, "I will never be able to make that."

Honestly, there's no magic technique or crazy, hard-to-find ingredients.  It's really pretty straightforward.  But, the photo of it in the book is just so beautiful.  It's always intimidated me because, as we all know, my re-creations of Grant's food are, um, not always necessarily the most appealing in their final form.  I do get some of them right, and some of the things I make are visually appealing, but this one has always been the one that I wanted to do well.  I did not want it to look like Sleestak vomit.

Let's see if I can pull this one off, shall we?

The first thing I did was roll the prosciutto into a cylinder.  The book calls for five slices of 3x12" prosciutto.  Mine came already-cut in 3x6" pieces (or thereabouts), so I just doubled the amount, and layered them, and rolled them like so:



Then, I wrapped it tight in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer for six hours.  The book says to freeze it overnight... which for me, is five hours (thanks, insomnia!).


While the prosciutto was freezing, I got to work on the passion fruit sponge.

Herewith, a passion fruit:


One of the things I love about doing this blog is getting to work with some of my favorite foods in whole new ways.  I love passion fruit.  Love it.  Would eat it every day if I could.  It's sweet and tart and a little bite-y, but when manipulated with just a wee bit of sugar, it evolves into this bold, amazing taste that I just can't get enough of.  I wish they were a) available year-round; and 2) less expensive than they are.

I halved eight passion fruits, scooped out the pulp and seeds, and pressed the pulp and juice through a fine-mesh strainer and discarded the seeds. 




I puréed the pulp and liquid in the blender until it was smoother than silk. I measured 15g of it for the sponge and froze the rest for future use.

I made simple syrup with the rinds (luckily the book has you make more than you need, so I had a little extra to put into my glass of iced tea the next day):

I put 100g of that passion fruit simple syrup into a saucepan along with some of the passion fruit purée (the orange stuff you saw earlier), water, salt, and citric acid.  Brought it to a boil over medium heat...

I whisked in seven gelatin sheets (which I'd soaked in cold water for a few minuted) and stirred until they had dissolved.  I poured that mixture into the bowl of my Kitchen Aid mixer and let it come closer to room temperature (15 minutes). 

Then, I whipped the hell out of it with the whisk attachment on the mixer -- on high speed, it took 12 minutes for stiff peaks to form.

I plopped it into a plastic-lined, chilled baking dish and leveled it with an offset spatula:


I put that pinky-orangeish sponge into the refrigerator to set for a few hours.  While that was doing its thang, I took the prosciutto out of the freezer, unwrapped it, and (using my awesome knife skillz, meat slicer be damned) sliced thin medallions which I put into the dehydrator for four hours:


When the prosciutto was done, I used a little 2" round cutter to cut cylinders out of the sponge so that I had something to put between the two prosciutto slices (which I garnished with a few fresh baby mint leaves from the garden -- zuta levana is minty, so baby mint leaves were a great substitute):


It's like a ham and passion fruit ice cream sandwich.  It's phenomenal.  It kicks the ass of prosciutto-wrapped melon.  It pummels bacon-wrapped anything.  It's salty, it's sweet, it's tart, it's fresh/green, it's smooth, it's crunchy and chewy, and finishes so nicely when all is said and done.

I had about 20 prosciutto chips and a huge tray of the sponge, so to extend the dish to as many neighborhood tasters as I could (I'm like Jesus that way, y'all), I just put a cylinder of the passion fruit sponge atop a prosciutto chip and topped it with a baby mint leaf.  Didn't top it with another prosciutto chip.  Looked lovely on the plate, and makes me want to file this one away in my Make This For a Cocktail Party folder.

You guys -- you have to make this.  Seriously.  It's not difficult at all -- and, you can skip the whole "serve it on a bed of sprouting thyme" bit, because while that is lovely and beautiful and striking and stuff, the minute you see these little guys all put together, you'll want to eat them and you won't care what it's being served on, I promise.


And, yay for it not looking like Sleestak vomit!  Is there a James Beard award for that?  No?  THERE SHOULD BE.

EXTRA AWESOME THING I WANTED TO TELL YOU ABOUT: The awesome Kat Kinsman and I compared finger injuries in the press room at the James Beard Awards, and she turned it into a story on CNN's Eatocracy.

Up Next: Not sure, yet. Probably another dish with passion fruit, since I have a box of them in my fridge.

Resources: Passion fruit from Wegmans; Domino sugar; gelatin sheets and citric acid from L'Epicerie; David's kosher salt; prosciutto San Daniele; mint from my garden.

Music to Cook By: Foals; Total Life Forever.  Whenever I'm jonesing for a trip to LA (I am now, bigtime), I tune into KCRW online and download their "Song of the Day" podcast.  Nine times out of ten, I love what they've chosen, and a few weeks ago I went through the KCRW podcast archive on my laptop and happened upon the band Foals and their album "Total Life Forever."  I listened to some sample tracks and had to download the whole thing immediately.  It's a got a very early 80s feel -- particularly with two of the songs: Blue Blood and Black Gold.  I just love this album, and foresee it becoming part of my ever-growing driving-to-the-beach playlist.

Read My Previous Post: Leftovers -- Deep-fried almonds over broccoli, garlic, and pecorino-romano

Alinea Book


  • I'm cooking my way through the Alinea Cookbook. Because I can. I think.


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