Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I Love A Drag Race

One of the things I love about my neighborhood is the annual Drag Queen Race. A lot of neighborhoods around the country have Halloween parades involving all sorts of characters. But ours is different - it lasts for 2 minutes and it is run in heels. Pretty impressive!

I heard rumors about lots of Larry Craig costumes this year and hope to see some. But not in this neighborhood. Don't get me wrong, the costumes are often current political figures - First Ladies, Senators, Madames - but they are all female characters.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

For my costume suggestion click here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

What Are You Running To?

I recently took up running. It's hard but I'm getting the hang of it. One foot in front of the other... I am now up to 3 miles 3 times per week! That's a huge accomplishment for someone who a couple of months ago spent far too much time on her couch. In anticipation of someday running outside in the real world I have recently just added hills to my treadmill routine - great for the butt!

To keep me from being utterly bored and also to keep my pace up (can't take 3 hours to run those 3 miles) I put together a playlist on my iPod. Peppy stuff like New Order, The Cure and English Beat. The playlist is good but it needs some work. To support my newfound exercise habit my dear friend Aparna sent me a fantastic mix - everything from Jessica Simpson to Kanye West - truly inspirational (if not a bit cheesy)!

Now it's your turn! In the spirit of the birthday CD I am asking for ideas for songs to add. Stuff that keeps you going, livens you up, makes you feel like you can run forever!

One day perhaps I will even run the Marine Corps Marathon - think I need a lobotomy first.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Books About Food

A recent meme tag got me thinking about food books. Not recipe books per se, but rather books where food is an integral part of the story. Over the years I've devoured (ha ha!) numerous books on the subject and have many more on my nightstand just waiting to be read.

Some of my favorites:

Kitchen Confidential: Anthony Bourdain has an ascerbic wit and an uncanny ability to describe the intricacies of restaurant cooking. Love him or hate him, you have to agree that he has an incredible mastery of the English language. And you'll thank him for warning you never to have seafood at Sunday brunch.

Like Water for Chocolate: In addition to being a wonderful tale of un/requited love, there are some pretty impressive feasts in this book. Very hot book too (and I'm not talking oven temp).

Much Depends on Dinner: I listed this as one of my favorite books - it's a great book but also the precursor to many more books I read about food - where it comes from, what it means to us. I also read her book "The Rituals of Dinner" - not quite as good (less about food) as the first one but interesting nonetheless.

Lemon Swamp and Other Places: I can still taste the lemon pie described in this book. And the fried chicken. Yummy southern food woven into a woman's life story.

The Orchard: About a woman who inherits a family apple orchard during the Depression. She ends up eating a LOT of apples. I can still taste them.

Garlic and Sapphires: Former NY Times food critic Ruth Reichl's memoir of her days in disguises eating everything high and low in NY.

Fast Food Nation: You'll never look at a fast-food hamburger the same way. Your thoughts on immigration may change too.

The Food Lover's Guide to Paris: Famed chef/author Patricia Wells talks about the markets, shops, restaurants, and bars of Paris. You want to buy a plane ticket now!

On the To Read list:

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A sort of anthropological look at the foods we eat and where they come from.

Heat: The story of a man who spent 3 years learning to cook in the kitchens of Mario Batali. Great when you're in the mood for Italian food.

American Food Writing edited by Molly O'Neill: Former food writer for the NY Times Magazine and sister of former Yankees' outfielder Paul O'Neill. A variety of writing by different authors on all different American foods.

What Einstein Told His Cook: The science of cooking - fascinating read for those who wonder why their dish didn't come out as expected. Or the differences (if there are any) among table, kosher, and sea salt.

French Women Don't Get Fat: Or how to eat steak frites, drink yourself silly, and fit into a size 4.

A few books where food is a big character but not the star:

A Year in Provence: and subsequent books... the joys of gastronomic discovery for an Englishman.

A Natural History of the Senses: Diane Ackerman does a wonderful job of going over all the senses: smell, touch, hearing, sight, and taste. Her discussion of how we taste bitter, sweet, salty, etc. is fantastic. The other senses are well covered too.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I *Heart* is my favorite cooking site. Yes, this probably mostly due to the fact that the chef is one of my best friends. However, in both her and my defense, there are several other reasons to love this site:

1) these meals take 3 minutes! yes, only 3! and that's not about taking the plastic tray out of the box and nuking it.

2) the bulk of the ingredients in the recipes are fresh! only thing preserved is the soy sauce.

3) she wields a very large 10" chef's knife with the grace of a ballet dancer. and doesn't lose any fingers in the process.

But seriously, this site is great because it demonstrates that you can put a delicious and nutritious meal on the table quickly. All the more reason to drive by the drive-thru.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Put Them Together

In previous posts I rambled on about my love of tomatoes and tarts. Put them together and you're in heaven! I present to you the roast tomato tart.

The beauty of this tart is that it takes winter tomatoes which are generally blah and concentrates their flavor so they just sing in your mouth. Oh joy!

The basic recipe uses fresh tomatoes (peeled and seeded - but you can skip this if it's a) too much trouble and/or b) you use a thinner-skinned small tomato like a pomodoro), creme fraiche and mustard. Top that with fresh thyme and voila, France! This recipe is also easily morphed into a more Italian style - ricottta (instead of creme fraiche) and basil (instead of thyme). Even Greek would work - feta with cream cheese/sour cream and oregano and capers.

Yum + Yum!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I'm It!

I've been tagged by Soccer Mom in Denial. Can't say I know exactly what this means but I'll give it a shot. Her meme was about books. Herewith, my answers:

Total Number of Books
Uh, bunches? Honestly, I'm one of those people who treasures certain books and believes that giving a book away (to a friend or charity) is one of the best things you can do. Unless you're going to reread it then let someone else experience the joy. Although I do maintain a collection of my absolute favorites that I turn to again and again. That includes children's books as well. My husband is not quite as good as giving away books as I am but he's getting there :)

Last Book Read
Hmmm....I pick up lots of books and start them. Then put them down because it's not quite the right time for that book. So I guess the last book I finished was "And His Lovely Wife..." by Connie Schultz - the lovely wife of newly-elected US Senator Sherrod Brown, who is the cousin of a my sister's friend from Peace Corps. Convoluted connection but much shorter than it appears. Sherrod was recently voted one of the most beautiful people on Capitol Hill - and his wife is truly lovely inside and out.

Last Book Bought
I guess that would be Connie Schultz's book. Although I do have a stack of books to read when the time is right. And my mother-in-law loves to send me books she thinks I'll like (mostly about food - go figure!)

Five Meaningful Books
Meaningful to ME I presume...the first 5 that come to mind

To Kill A Mockingbird - if only for the line "Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing."

Much Depends On Dinner - Margaret Visser is something of a food anthropologist, tracing several components of a meal from their origins and discussing their significance in society. I have numerous other books about food (I was tempted to list The New Best Recipe here) but I think this is the one that really got me started.

No Ordinary Time - Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography (?) of FDR and Eleanor. At over 700 pages it is a page turner. And I cried so hard when FDR died - as if I didn't see that coming.

Me Talk Pretty One Day - I love David Sedaris. He has a sick sense of humor that I just can't get enough of. MTPOD was the first book of his that I read and I've not stopped devouring his writing (also found in the New Yorker!). His sister Amy is a hoot too!

Eloise - Kay Thompson's wonderful tale about a precocious girl who lives at the Plaza Hotel with her nanny, pug, and turtle. I give this book as a baby gift - even the boys should learn about how much fun, mischievous, and confident girls can be. I have a copy signed by the illustrator, Hilary Knight.

And I would echo Soccer Mom's love of the New Yorker! We've been subscribing since as long as I can remember.

I also have a long list of baseball books and even more food books. So hard to choose amongst them all!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Queen of Tarts

At one point in my recent job woes, my sister suggested that I pursue a career using my true talent. Hmmm....still haven't paid off that Harvard degree.....


Something about the way the pan separates, maybe the fluted edge, quick-baking quality? I don't know what it is but I love them. I'll take just about any regular pie-like recipe I have and try it in the tart pan. There's something really cathartic about rolling out a pie crust and creating a visual and gastronomic masterpiece.

Ladies (and gentlemen), let me tell you, if you want to win someone's heart, make them a Gruyere tart. (Maybe I should have gone into advertising). Nutty cheese, eggs, cream, caramelized onions. Something about it just makes people swoon.

Another favorite is the tart made with fresh apricots. I'm not a big fan of the fruit myself but this tart is great - the flavor of the fruit concentrates and provides a wonderful contrast to the mildly sweet crust. And if you really don't like apricots you can substitute any number of other fruits. For those of you wooing someone a bit more artistic or arithmetic, the lattice top is a big hit.

Yum, tarts!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Freshness In A Can!

I'm not a big fan of canned anything - it's soggy, salty, sugary, colorless. However, there is one thing that is VERY good when it comes in a can - TOMATOES!

I know, you're thinking, "how can someone who loves fresh food so much like canned tomatoes?" Here's the deal - canned tomatoes are even better than fresh. How can this be? Fresh tomatoes are bred for looks. Canned tomatoes are bred for taste. They might be ugly on the outside but they are oh so good on the inside. In addition, canned tomatoes have more of the antioxidant lycopene than fresh. I generally keep several cans in my pantry at any time - use them for spaghetti, soup, chicken, fish, chili, etc. Save the fresh tomatoes for salads and sandwiches.

Avoid the canned tomatoes that have other things thrown in such as garlic or herbs. It's always better to season them yourself to your liking once you decide on your recipe.

My favorite (as well as Cook's Illustrated) - Muir Glen. Stock up!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Change of Scenery if not a Change in the Weather

My friend Allison has been bugging me to post more often which I'm all for - but lately gardening just doesn't have much to offer. Yes, it's 90 degrees in October, but the flowers are fading - the days are getting shorter as we enter autumn, even if it feels like summer.

So, to keep me posting (I joined NaBloPoMo at Allison's urging) I'm going to switch gears for the off-season. There are lots of topics I could explore - politics, my cat, marriage - but for the sake of preserving sanity on all fronts I'm going to refrain from those areas and focus on my other passion - food! And just to keep it interesting and slightly different from all the other food blogs out there I'm going to talk about bringing the outdoors in - the abundance of the farmers' market, eating organic and/or local, etc.

And I'll throw in the occasional Lucy story as warranted - for 23 hours of sleeping every day she does produce some interesting tales.

Lucy Y Sheryl Crow