Category Archives: Reading

Garlic & Sapphires NY Cheesecake

So I finally got around to making half of my Garlic & Sapphires assignment: the New York cheesecake. I haven’t made a cheesecake in eons. The dinner reception I had last week was a perfect excuse to get a new springform pan and go for it.

As I was preparing the cheesecake, I started having major flashbacks to a cheesecake I learned to make from my college boyfriend’s mother. Mrs. Cohen was famous for her cheesecake. For the four years I was with her son, she always made me a cheesecake on my birthday. It was an amazing and decadent treat. I mostly remember the part about having to stand over the bowl with an electric mixer for a full thirty minutes, so that the filling was as creamy and fluffy as possible. Not a minute less than thirty! The ingredients looked VERY similar, so I checked back on the old notebook with the handwritten recipe from Mrs. Cohen. Same ingredients, but slightly different composition. Instead of the 24 oz. of cream cheese that RR uses, Mrs. Cohen used 32. And instead of putting the sour cream on top as a glaze, she mixed hers in with the cream cheese.

I think it came out very pretty looking, and it was rich, delicious, but somehow a little bland. I think that adding the sour cream into the mix gave it a bit more zing. I don’t know. People raved over it, and for the most part I think it was a huge success.

Now for the second half of my assignment: I picked Spaghetti Carbonara, but when I learned that it was “authentic” Carbonara, made with bacon and eggs (no cream), somehow I lost my appetite for it. (I am such a sucker for dairy products!) In fact, the idea of it kind of grosses me out. I am not sure I am going to be able to follow through on this one. Sorry, everyone!

tastebud cocaine

Foie gras — before
Originally uploaded by c(h)ristine.

I have been lambasted on my blog for it, but I love foie gras. I love to eat it, despite all the political incorrectness of this food, and despite the stomach churning ethical arguments (forcefeeding ducks and geese to create and enlargened, fatty liver that is foie gras). This food is creamy, fatty, flavorful decadence.

And now Ruhlman has a post on foie gras on megnut and notable are Anthony Bourdain’s enthusiasm comments under his post. (found via Slashfood).

Locavore in process

"the bluest blueberries"

After reading Michael’s Pollan book The Omnivore’s Dilemma earlier this month, I’ve been closely examining my own eating dilemma. What am I eating, and how can I better my eating habits and be a better food citizen?

Over the years, I’ve come up with my own guidelines. I avoid eating anything that requires a microwave (that includes microwave popcorn). I use the microwave, in fact, purely for defrosting meats and heating up individual portions of liquids. Oh, and melting chocolate.

I don’t eat frozen dinners. The fewer the ingredients, the better. I try to shop organic. I buy free range chicken. And grass fed beef.

But, I have learned, that is not enough. For even organic has gone industrial. How many miles have those organic salad mixes flown to land at my neighborhood grocery store? In many cases, thousands of miles–the usage of fossil fuels negates the environmental benefits of organic. And that free range chicken? It’s been fed an unnatural diet of corn–chickens are supposed to eat grubs! Are they really free range and sustainable? Do they really venture out into the open air, or are they provided with a teeny itty bitty door that looms like the gateway of the Unknown to the timid chickens? Yes, organic is better than conventional…but how much better? And can we do better? That’s Pollan’s challenge.

Nevermind all the corn syrup in all our foods (corn syrup is bad bad bad). Farmers are subsidized by the government–they are encouraged to grow corn, and yet what do we do with all the surplus? We make it into oil, ethanol, feed it to cows whose digestive system can’t support anything but grass, and convert it into “high fructose corn syrup.” It’s everywhere, and not only that, it’s likely to be the number 1, 2, or 3 ingredient in many of your processed foods. I checked a candy bar from England (yes, I know, that thing was shipped from England using tons and tons of fossil fuels)….and I noticed there was no corn syrup listed in the ingredients. It was refreshing to see the word “sugar” in the ingredient list. When was the last time you saw “sugar” in an ingredient list instead of the ubiquitous “High Fructose Corn Syrup?”

I used to spend summers in Seoul, South Korea. Over the course of a few weeks there, I lost a lot of weight. I wondered what it was about Korea versus the United States that accounted for such a drastic change in my weight. Yes, I was walking more in Seoul, but that didn’t account for a fifteen pound weight differential. “It’s in the air,” a bunch of us Korean American would say. Maybe it’s in the corn syrup.

My thoughts on how to eat are in full swing these days. I used to go to the farmer’s market on a regular basis–but somehow, I let those trips fall off my schedule. Going to Whole Foods or the Berkeley Bowl I thought would be enough. But it is not. Even Whole Foods caters to support the “industrial organics.” Though as of this morning, there’s news that Whole Foods will start featuring locally grown produce due to pressure from Michael Pollan.

Though I won’t stop eating the occasional hamburger from In-n-Out or McDonald’s (even though I’ll be thinking about the way in which these foods are processed), Pollan’s ideas have pierced my psyche as well. I went to the farmer’s market this past weekend. It is a good re-start. Not only that, but it was good for my eating soul to be connected directly with the food and the people who grow the blueberries, peaches, strawberries, lemongrass, basil, tomatoes, corn and all the other bounty laid before the omnivore.

RCE Book Club: Updates!!

For everyone who is wondering how the bookclub is coming (and its far enough down the list that its gonna drop off soon), here is a link to who is doing what, which recipes have yet to be spoken for – and best of all, the shortlist for September’s selection!

Foodie Friends

Hello other Muffin Toppers! I wanted to write today about the experience of having foodie friends. Last night I was perusing my bookshelves, looking for something else, when Laurie Colwin’s two books, Home Cooking and More Home Cooking caught my eye. I carried them upstairs to bed with me and read a bit from both of them, feeling both grateful and melancholy. Grateful because I love Laurie Colwin’s writing, and the sense that I have of her as a person. I love her sense of warmth, her humor, her generous spirit. And melancholy, because she died way too early, at the age of 48. When I heard of her death in 1992 I couldn’t help wondering if it had something to do with her penchant for butter balls:

… my mother would make butter balls. She took very cold pats of butter and rolled them between two flat, ridged wooden paddles that had beeen chilled in the freezer beforehand… working them until they became little balls, with crosshatched surfaces. Then, she made a hole in each ball, sprinkled in a pinch of sugar and a drop of lemon juice, and put the balls in the fridge. Later, my sister and I were allowed to eat the butter balls as a treat, and, believe me, they were wonderful.

I believe her. Here was someone who took such pleasure in not only food, but words, and the company of human people. I longed to somehow, someday be her friend, to hang out with her in her kitchen while she whipped up some spicy gingerbread or her mother’s beef stew with buttered noodles. (more butter, mmmmmm) Apparently I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Some of my dearest friends look upon food as a necessary evil. Some of them see it as a drug (they have a point) For some, food is strictly utilitarian. And others are intimidated by things like cookbooks. Some of them would no more likely watch a food show on TV than I would watch a round of golf. (ie, one in ten million)

Speaking of food TV, I would like to bring up Rachel Ray. So many people just loathe and despise her. She’s totally over the top cutie pie, but for some reason, I don’t find her despicable. When I was at Blue Mountain last year, I found this issue of Adirondack magazine that showed the house where she lives in upstate NY with her mom (which she bought for her mom), and it was the most appealing, beautifully rustic place. I think she would be fun to tool around with, traveling and finding unique and fun places to eat at, although I would give much bigger tips than she does. I almost hacked my way through my TV screen when she was on some trip to Maine, eating lobster rolls out on some pier. I wanted to be there so badly! I like people who are enthusiastic about food, rather than suspicious of it or indifferent.

It’s been such a treat to discover that there are foodies among my friends recently. And I can curl up with Laurie Colwin’s delicious words and experience her cooking and her company on a different level.

The Complete Keller

And now, the unveiling of the Holy Grail of cookbooks: The Complete Keller.

BOTH volumes, The French Laundry Cookbook and Bouchon, in one slipcovered case. Packed for easy consumption. Pre-orders are available at HUGE discounts from the retail price. Guess what I’m asking my very understanding boyfriend for my birthday? 😉

Gourmet Covers Under the Lens

Thanks to my new e-friend, Lucas, I had a great little read of this article on Slate on the state of food styling and photography of Gourmet magazine. Now, Gourmet is one of my favourite foodie magazines, both for the articles and the recipes. It has not always been the case, in fact there was a period where I refused to buy it – primarily because the food stopped looking nice, the recipes were far too “out there” for me, and frankly I thought that the quality of the magazine was just not up to par.

Times (and styles) change. In the past few months I’ve taken to reading it again and have become a huge fan of this magazine (but the fact the Ruth Reichl is the Editor-in-chief of Gourmet didn’t have any bearing, really, on our selection of her book for the ReadEatCook bookclub) once more. As someone who works in the food/styling/photography/packaging industry, I have had the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented photographers, stylists and designers and whilst I’m not a designer myself, one cannot help but start to develop a bit of a design sensiblity.

Sara Dickerman, the author of the Slate piece, I think has a pretty good eye for design and a great method for demonstrating the current state of the foodstyling world through the microcosm of the Gourmet cover tablescape. While I wholeheartedly agree with her assessment of the style progression of the covers, I differ from her in that I really quite like the darker, moodier, more somber appeal of the style. I guess I’ve gotten a bit over the shallow focus, light washed low angle shots of the late 90’s and early 00’s and I’m ready for something a little more dramatic; something more sophisticated. This isn’t to say that it isn’t hard to get those shots just right – I guess I’m just looking for something a bit more, well, realistic. Not everyone lives in a lightdrenched house in East Hampton. Some of us live in little apartments and condos and are rapidly wanting to see something that more reflects our lives. Aspirational design is one thing, but realistic portrayals can also move product.

For a more interesting view of what’s happening, I’d rather turn to Australian Gourmet Traveller and Sainsbury’s Magazine. They’re both taking that light drenched look and gussying it up a bit so it looks a little less like Bauhaus food and more like something that we could all really be living with. There’s variety and visual interest in each story and sometimes in each shot. This is food the way I make it – sometimes I’m at home, sometimes at a friend’s place, often at my parents – and you use what you have. That’s the reality of today’s entertaining, isn’t it?

Anyway, the worst part about this little tale is that the highly acclaimed March 2006 issue featuring Montreal is actually sold out from the Gourmet back issues department (I checked this afternoon). Its selling at over $41 currently on eBay and I don’t have a copy. Stilted and overly propped the cover may be, but I still want a copy. 😦