Tuesday, October 31, 2006

the ethics of eating

Mark and I are going to hear this lecture at Georgetown on Thursday night. I'm reading The Omnivore's Dilemma now (as the other two Tarts already have), so this should tie in nicely. And I'm not Catholic, but I'm intrigued that there's going to be a Catholic angle to this. We'll see what that's about. I'll post a report later.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

boo appetit!

Here's what we're taking to a Halloween party tonight: Graveyard cake (a chocolate sheet cake with walnut icing decorated with Milano cookies),

and spider crackers, made with Ritz crackers, peanut butter, pretzels, and raisins.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

a sorrel sacrifice

Saturday was the last day of the farmer's market around here, a very sad day indeed. And no one understands my sadness as much as Lisa B. at the Megastore. She, after all, makes lists for the final market, wondering what she can store, hoping for the last sweet peaches, knowing that she'll soon have to deal with the sorrows of grocery store produce (ok, maybe I'm projecting a bit here, but still, Lisa B. gets it). At this week's market, I ran into Lisa B. and the Historian at Sun River, where we both have a CSA share. I kept running into them as we made our rounds (I swear I wasn't following). At the place with all the herbs and the lovely eggs, Lisa remarked on their good sorrel. I told her how I had meant to make some sorrel soup the week before, but never did. There was only one bag of sorrel left, and Lisa told me to take it. The last bag of sorrel, on the last day of the market? I couldn't. But she insisted and told me I just had to blog about it. I certainly got the better end of that deal. Thanks Lisa, for sacrificing the sorrel and for making this soup possible.

I roughly followed a recipe from a soup cookbook that Tara gave me years ago (with the sorrel sacrifice and the gifted cookbook, this is a very friendly soup). Some sorrel, a few carrots, potatoes, onions, a good vegetable stock (I used the recipe from Gourmet, which is very dark and rich for a veg stock--highly recommended). Saute, simmer, puree a bit of it for texture. The sour, lemony sorrel makes what might be a bland and obvious vegetable soup worthy of a little attention. If only there were another week, another a bit of sorrel.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

thought about applying to be a restaurant reviewer...

...but now the job posting's not listed any more. My friend Estela, a freelance writer, let me know that the Boulder Weekly, a free paper, was looking for a writer to do restaurant reviews and food-related features. They wanted a CV and some samples via email, so I spent some time picking out which Three Tarts posts best show off my food writing abilities and telling myself that my handful of publications in academic books and journals made me look particularly credible. (Yeah, right. The audiences are so similar.) Then I got sick and didn't move off the couch for two days, after which Mr. Tart and I went out of town. So tonight I sit down to compose a cover letter and fiddle with my CV. "Better check the ad again," I counsel myself. "Make sure you know exactly what they're looking for." But I'll never know--the ad has been removed from Craig's List (where it was posted online) and from the BW web site--even though there was a print ad for it in Thursday's edition!

Mr. Tart very sensibly suggests that I contact them anyway to find out if they're still taking applications and also if they're looking for freelancers (which would probably fit into my life more easily than regular deadlines). And I probably will--as soon as I emerge from the huge pile of grading that I've been buried in for the past week and a half (two classes' rough drafts of compositions, chapter exams, and activity reports, on top of daily homework assignments, which must all be finished before I collect the final drafts of the compositions this week)!

Any advice? (Besides making my class assessments all multiple choice next semester, that is.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

canned, sealed, stocked up

There are a dozen or more reasons that I am dreading the impending winter and I am doing everything I can to ignore the fact that it is coming: still wearing sandals, refusing to clean my winter coats, cherishing the fact that two more weeks remain of the farmer's market. But there is one reason I am happy winter is coming: I can finally stop canning.

I'm not sure what happened to me this year, but I have been preserving food like a crazy woman. As I've mentioned before, we canned all the time when I was growing up and I absolutely hated the whole endeavor. Last year, my sister and I canned a few fruit butters, and I found the experience a little more tolerable. But this year?

In addition to a variety of sauces and jams that I have stuffed into my freezer, I have canned the following:

plum amaretto jam
peach lavender jam
peach butter
raspberry jam
pickled garlic
roasted peppers
peach mint salsa
tomatillo salsa
regular old salsa
rosemary garlic jelly
asian plum sauce
plums with brandy
peaches with amaretto
nectarine preserves with basil

Whew, it's been an exhausting fall. Partly, the canning was motivated by my reading of the Omnivore's Dillema and my increasing commitment to locally grown food. Partly, I am curious about the craft. Perhaps I am nesting. It's tricky to sort out all of my reasons for canning like a maniac. It's an act of creativity, I suppose, but also a political act. It seems like a good way to expand my ability to eat locally and a good way to be frugal and self-sufficient (oh how proud my parents would be to hear me say that).

Still, I feel a little self-conscious about the whole thing. W. tells me he's going to arrange an intervention ("have you been canning again?" he asks when he comes home)and I think I might need one. I feel rather proud of my efforts, but I also feel a bit of self-loathing (so domestic, so frugal). I look forward to gobbling up all that jam in mid-winter, but I am also sure that I am going to give both me and W. a bad case of botulism. It's all very complicated.

But it's done. Despite myself, I have become a canner.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Cocktail or racehorse name?

You decide which is which.

1. All Dressed Up Like A Dog's Dinner
2. Cabana Boy
3. Loaded Question
4. Widow With A Secret
5. Trouble For Tina
6. Major Tom
7. Smog Alert
8. Sandra Buys A Dog
9. Rumors On The Internets
10. Gimme The Keys

(1, 4, 5, 8: cocktails, according to "The Bartender's Bible" by Gary Regan; 2, 3, 7, 10: racehorse names registered with the Churchill Downs Jockey Club; 6: both. Sadly, 9 is neither.)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

those darn food bloggers

The Rocky Mountain News published an article on October 4 about restaurants' opinions of food bloggers ("Camera-toting diners make eateries uneasy" by Jon Bonn of the San Francisco Chronicle). Apparently many don't like the fact that we carry cameras and photograph our food and then provide reviews online. They worry about reduced privacy for other diners and increased scrutiny of their own meals. (Yet few restaurants have made rules against cameras.) I would argue, though, that any blog exposure is free advertising for the restaurant, even if it's a negative review! It goes without saying that some blog restaurant reviews are amateurish or poorly written--but I've also seen reviews published in newspapers that don't tell me anything I couldn't get off of the menu.

This quote made me laugh: Chef Chris Consentino states, "When somebody pulls out a camera, we know they're a food blogger." Interestingly, Thomas Keller of the highly acclaimed French Laundry welcomes bloggers; at least one person photographs his food there per day. Me, on the other hand, I never whip out my camera at a place where I feel I would incur stares if I started taking pictures of my plate. I can't imagine doing so at an upscale restaurant. What do y'all think about the proliferation of camera-wielding food bloggers?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

orecchiette with swiss chard & chickpeas

So easy, so good. This is one of those dishes that tastes like so much more than its ingredients suggest.

Saute plenty of garlic in olive oil, along with some red pepper flakes. When the garlic is just about done, toss in the chickpeas (14 oz. can, drained) -- they don't need to cook, really; you just want them to get perfumed by the garlic. Meanwhile, boil your orecchiette ("little ears") pasta and chopped Swiss chard together; 10 minutes is just about optimal for both. (Shells are a good substitute if you can't find orecchiette.) Toss it all together with grated parmesan and, if it's drier than you'd like, more olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Dessert was CHOW's green tea and sour cherry granita, perfect for that last waning bit of warm weather:

Tart, refreshing. And I love that gorgeous jewel-tone color!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

roasted, stuffed poblanos

Last night I revisited a dish I haven't made in at least a year, inspired by some gorgeous red poblano peppers I found at the farmers' market. For years I've been roasting poblanos and stuffing them with black beans. The problem is that the heat of the peppers varies wildly. For my not-as-chile-tolerant husband, they can sometimes be too hot, even with the seeds removed. I found a way this time to make the heat manageable, though, without sacrificing flavor.

The peppers are roasted in the usual way: broil 'em until the skins are blistered and blackened and the peppers start to collapse a bit, about 20 minutes. Close them up in a paper bag for 10 minutes, then peel the skins off under running cold water. While you've got 'em under the running water, make a slit down the middle of each pepper and scoop out the seeds. (I'd heard before that you shouldn't rinse roasted peppers because you'd lose flavor. Since I was trying to reduce the heat this time, I threw caution to the wind and rinsed away. I can report that they were still very flavorful: nice roasty flavor, still plenty of heat.) Don't worry if they kinda fall apart a little bit -- you'll be able to sort of reshape them later around the stuffing.

Instead of just black beans, this time the stuffing was black beans, slightly mashed (one 14 oz. can); about 4 oz. of goat cheese; and about a cup and a half of roasted corn kernels. (That's enough stuffing for eight peppers.) The corn adds a new layer of sweetness the dish lacked before, and the goat cheese tames the heat of the peppers. Plus, I mean, goat cheese = yum! Duh.

Then I bake them for about 20 minutes on top of a layer of caramelized onions, with a little cheddar or Monterey Jack sprinkled on top. I used to serve them just like that, but this time I served them on a bed of brown rice. Bingo! It tames the heat of the peppers, adds texture, and makes it more main-dish-worthy. Top 'em with chopped fresh tomato and cilantro (or a nice fresh salsa). Also, a green salad is nice (this one was dressed simply, with just walnut oil and a splash of champagne vinegar).

Lovely, lovely. It got the Mark seal of approval.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

a fish taco showdown?

Sarah, I know you think you may have the recipe for the best fish taco, but we may have to have a cook-off.

I have to give the credit for these to Will (although I did make the salsa):

Warm flour tortillas in a dry pan until they are lightly browned, but still soft. Fill them with baked sole (just a little olive oil and pepper). Top with shredded cabbage, peach mint salsa (recipe below), and diced tomatoes (Will wasn't keen on the tomatoes, but I think they added good flavor). Light, easy, delicious.

Peach Mint Salsa
Mix together the following:

2 cups chopped peaches
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
minced hot pepper, to taste
2 T. chopped mint
a bit of salt, a bit of lime juice

eyeballs floating in my miso

When posting restaurant reviews on this blog, I tend focus on my favorites and give rave reviews. This time, though, I have to warn Lafayette readers of an awful new restaurant, one that Mr. Tart and I had high hopes for: Japone, a new Japanese order-at-the-counter fast food joint. We were thoroughly disappointed by the service, atmosphere, and food.

The first time we went, for lunch on a Sunday, they weren't open, although their recent ad proclaimed hours from 11 am to 10 pm. When we came back later that week, there was only one other couple in the restaurant, but it still took about 15 minutes for us to both get our entire meals. First Ed ordered a beef bowl--his gold standard for Japanese restaurants--and the guy behind the counter immediately went into the back room, emerging a minute or two later with a beef bowl, which he handed to Ed. Ed clarified that he wanted the optional green tea and miso soup with it. Then, as there were no menus and I was craning my neck to read the list of foods on posters on the back wall, I had to ask what about half-a-dozen different dishes consisted of. He explained, and I ordered the medium sushi plate, thinking how cool it was to be able to order one or two pieces of exactly which kinds of nigiri sushi I wanted for only a dollar apiece. (Too bad he didn't write them down, though, and brought me more shrimp and fewer fish than I had ordered.) "Only a dollar apiece for nigiri sushi?" you might be thinking. "That's amazing!" Or perhaps, "Only a dollar apiece? They must really be cutting corners at this joint!" You'd be right about the latter.

As he was making the sushi, I added that I too wanted the miso and tea. His colleague took our money, he finally handed me a pretty plate of six pieces of sushi (but with far too little wasabi and ginger), and Ed reminded him that we both wanted soup and tea. After another few minutes, they finally got it together and brought us the rest of the meal. By now the beef bowl has cooled to room temperature.

Meanwhile, we've been sitting in the now-empty restaurant, which felt even emptier given that no music was playing. We talked in whispers because we felt so self-conscious. I had to roam around the restaurant looking for utensils--turns out the chopsticks are in a different place than the spoons which are in a different place from the shallow dishes to pour the soy sauce into.

But the atmosphere and service were pretty good compared to the food. Ed reports that the beef was shredded the way he likes it but gristly and not sufficiently sauced. He had to douse the rice with soy sauce, which apparently you shouldn't have to do with a beef bowl. As for me, I quickly figured out why the sushi was so cheap: it wasn't fresh and didn't taste good. Mostly it was the texture: the fish was extremely cold, watery, and not rich and dense and meaty, rather a bit fibrous. I suspect that they keep the fish frozen and then defrost it. But that destroys the texture if you're planning to eat it raw!

The miso soup, on the other hand, started off very promisingly. The flavor was hearty and they didn't stint on the seaweed. And I loved the tofu chunks--they had been deep-fried and thus had a little bite to them instead of being tasteless and crumbling. But then I encountered a little creature with big round black eyes on the side of his head. He didn't have any legs--at least, not any more--so I don't believe that it was an unfortunate local insect that went for an unplanned swim. He was about a centimeter long with a tail that came to a point. He probably came in with the seaweed--perhaps he was actually supposed to be in there, an integral part of the recipe, just a wee sea squirmy to add some brinyness to the flavor of the miso--but I don't like eyeballs staring at me from a supposedly vegetarian soup. Somehow I doubt that Mr. Tart and I will return to this restaurant!