Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A single, perfect apple

Today at work, someone had a bag of free apples outside his office. At first I wasn't going to take one, but then I saw how fresh they looked. And, bonus, they weren't waxed!! So, I picked one up, but it had a worm hole in it. Pass... By chance, the next one I touched still had its stem and a few leaves attached. That's the winner. Turns out that they were hand picked in New Hampshire. Nice!

I carried it home in my hand so that could photograph it before the leaves were ripped off or the apple bruised. I must have looked quite ridiculous on the 6 train and then the crosstown bus, apple in hand and all. On a rainy day, no less... At one point I felt like one of those women who carry around a tiny dog as a fashion accessory, only my fashion accessory was an apple.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Braised Greens with Scallops

Last night, after I engaged in the orgy at Whole Foods—What else would you call a bustling mass of people getting sucked in by the food porn and buying more than they can afford?—I got busy in my kitchen and made myself a yummy fall dinner.

In this season, more than any other, I'm a pro at combining vegetables and fruit into single dishes. My acorn squash soup had apples hidden in it. The meal I made last night contained raisins and a pear. It also had yummy bacon (an essential, in my mind, when cooking bitter greens) and pecans. This meal was so full of good flavors that, instead of eating at my desk while watching TV, I actually sat at the kitchen table and ate my dinner wiht a glass of wine and background music. (Have I mentioned I love fall?)

Braised Greens (with scallops)
(Serves 2)

The braised greens are a great fall/winter side dish on their own and would work well pork, chicken or other meats. I had them with scallops that I seasoned with salt and pepper and seared in a non-stick pan with a little EVOO. Just be careful not to over cook them!

1/4 lb bacon (use uncut bacon or thick slices)
1/2 ea red onion (chopped)
3/4 lb mixed braising greens* (washed and roughly
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup raisins (normal or golden)
1/4 cup pecans (roughly chopped)
1 ea pear (diced in 1/2" pieces - Do this while the greens are cooking so that it doesn't brown from sitting around too long.) salt to taste fresh ground nutmeg to taste (optional)

1. Cut the bacon into 1/2" pieces (if sliced) or into 1/4" dice (if using unsliced slab bacon). Place this in a high-sided saute pan over med-low heat and allow the fat to render, stirring occassionally.
2. Add the red onion and stir occassionally until it softens.
3. Add the chopped greens and stir to coat with the rendered fat. Then add the chicken stock and cover to trap the steam.
4. When the greens are wilted, but not mushy (3-5 minutes on heat), add the raisins and pecans and stir them in. Leave the lid off at this point to allow moisture to escape. (You aren't making a soup...) 5. When the greens are just about ready to eat, add the diced pear and stir in so that it just begins to soften. (If you want your pear softer, cut the pieces smaller or add them earlier.) Add the ground nutmeg at this time if using.
6. Make a final adjustment to the seasoning (i.e.
salt) and serve.

* I purchased mine from an open bin at Whole Foods. If this isn't available, use a combination of radicchio, chard, beet greens, kale, turnip greens, mustard, collard greens or any other tough leaf.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Now you can subscribe!!

I know a few of you (mom...) have asked if you can just get my blog by e-mail so that you don't have to keep checking back for new posts. Well, now you can! Just click on the link in the right-had side of the page. And for all you people who prefer RSS feeds (dad...), you can do that too.

I try to keep people happy...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Squash Soup - My favorite healthy fall indulgence

I subscribe to more food magazines than any non-obsessed person could fathom and I'm sometimes surprised by how often they mirror each other. Now, if pressed, I could give you a philosophical rundown of how each magazine is different from its competitors, but that's not the point. November issues always have a turkey on the cover. No surprise there. December is often cookie-focused. Again, duh. But what I really like is the almost certain inclusion of butternut sqush soup at least once a year. No, this isn't an actual fact, but a quick search of my favorite food magazines shows I'm onto something:

Curried Butternut Squash Soup Bisque - Bon Appetit, Feb. 2007
Gingerd Butterut Squash Soup with Spicy Pecan Cream - Food & Wine, Nov. 2007
Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Smoked Cheddar - Food & Wine, Feb. 2007
Roasted Pear Buttenut Soup with Crumbled Stilton - Eating Well, Oct./Nov. 2006
Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Bacon - Fine Cooking, Oct./Nov. 2005

And those are just from the last year or so... Now, there's a clear prejudice toward using butternut squash, but I have fond memories of acorn squash from my childhood and so that's the one that I keep coming back to. We normally ate it microwaved or baked with brown sugar. It was delicious, for sure, but always seemed like dessert to me. Now, even though I don't want to eat sugar for my vegetable, I still can't get used to eating the squash in more savory preparations, so I compromise and try to make a less sweet version.

My squash soup is a thick puree of roasted acorn squash and apple. I add a few other ingredients for balance, toss it in a blender—my trusty Vitamix—and call it a day. I didn't really keep a close eye on the ingredients I was using. (Still not in the habit of aithuflly logging everything I cook so that I can write about it here...) But here's a close approximation. I don't relal encourage strictly following a recipe anyway when cooking, so this is very fitting of my cooking style. E-mail me at
or just leave a comment if you have any questions.

Acorn Squash and Apple Soup

1 ea acorn squash (skin removed, seeds discarded and cut into 1" pieces
2 ea Macintosh apples (cored and cut into 1" pieces with skin left on)
1" slice red onion (cut into 1" pieces)
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 pinches salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
extra virgin olive oil as needed
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger (peeled and minced)
2 cups chicken stock

1. Preheat oven to 450°F
2. Place squash, apple and onion in a single layer on a 4-sided cookie sheet, roasting pan or jelly-roll pan, but keep all items separate. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle evenly with sugar, cinnamon and salt. Place in oven to roast.
3. Check every 5-10 minutes. Apples and onions will finish first. Remove the apples when they become soft, but before they lose their shape. Remove onion before they become too dry and papery. The squash will take up to 30 minutes. It should be soft and starting to darken in color. You'll save yourself cleaning, if you remove the vegetables directly to the blender.
4. When everything is out of the oven and in the blender, add the ginger and chicken broth and puree. The final thickness will vary depending on the size of your squash and apples. I suggest adding only part of the chicken stock at first and then adding more as desired to reach your preferred consistency.

- If desired, garnish with a couple thin apple slices. Cut them immediately prior to serving or, to work ahead, immerse them in a solution of water and lemon juice to prevent browning.
- Use more or less ginger and cinnamon to suit your taste. You could also omit the ginger and cinnamon and experiment with other spices like cumin or curry powder.
- Try adding additional roasted vegetables like sweet potato or carrot. Or, sub in pears for the apples.

Super Taco

Well, after a year living at 95th St. and Riverside Dr. and walking by the place several times a year, I finally tried Super Taco—a souped up street-food operation parked outside of Gristedes on 96th St. near Broadway. Why last night and not before? Well, my date (that's right, I was on a date) brought it up in conversation and we were reasonably close, so I suggested we walk over for a late night snack. Honestly, I never stopped by before because there was always a horde of Spanish-speaking customers and a long complicated menu that I didn't want to take the time to read, but last night I was feeling bold.

In true form, once I saw that the menu went beyond the usual Americanized "Mexican" food offerings, I resolved to order the most unfamiliar item on the menu. At first, I thought that meant the goat taco, but no, there was something even more unusual—the lengua taco. If your Spanish is up to snuff, you already know what I ate, but for the linguistically challenged (that was a clue) I had tongue.

"Eww... Gross!" you say? Well, honestly this isn't my first experiene with beef tongue. One of the courses at WD-50 was pickled beef tongue, and, although it was sliced very thinly and artfully piled on the plate, it's rubbery, spongy texture was still recognizeable as were the filiform papillae—the little hairlike projections on the top of the tongue. You and I have them too, but on a cow's tongue, they're much larger and noticeable.

Getting back to Super Taco, this tongue was chopped into small pieces roughly a quarter-inch square. This highlighted its texture without making it difficult to eat. You knew you were eating tongue, but you didn't have to chew on it forever before swallowing—an important quality for street food. Two soft flour tortillas formed the taco's shell and shredded lettuce, chopped onions were added. From the self-service condiments, I added just the red salsa, but sliced radishes, green salsa and jalepeños were also available.

So, the verdict... I'd definitely go back. I'd like to try the goat or some of the more elaborate specials. The $2 taco was a perfectly sized late-night snack and a couple of them will make a still-cheap meal. The truck is parked on the same block as a Salvation Army donation center, so it'll be a nice treat after dropping off the clothes I plan to clean out of my wardrobe. And my date? Well he deserves the respect of not being publicly analyzed.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Do I Smell Bacon?

So, I haven't subscribd to Everyday With Rachael Ray because I'm stupid. I've been buying it every month and spending more money than if I just subscribed. Anyway, that's not why I'm writing tonight. It's beause of something I saw when I was flipping through the last issue. A bacon scented candle... That's right...


OK, that's crazy, yes? Well, it comes as part of a three-candle set: bacon, lettuce and tomato. Theoretically, if you light all three at once , you're apartment, house, office or wherever, wil smell like a BLT.

Now, I'd love to try it out, but I'm don't exactly have the budget to spend $34 on a set of 3 candles from Mostly I'm curious about the bacon candle, because—let's face it—who doesn't love the smell of bacon? (That's a hint... send me the candles to try out...)

In my research, I did find another blogger who made her own bacon candle by sticking a wick in the frozen drippings from a pound of cooked bacon. There's also a Web site that sells bacon scented candles to hunters trying to attract bears. Some day, when I feel like cooking a pound of bacon and have various commercial bacon-scented candles, I'll do a comparative test, but that'll have to wait. Right now, I've spent so much time thinking about it that I can almost smell the bacon now...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ethanol and what it means to your ketchup

One of the benefits of actually having an office to go to rather than always working from home is that you get to overhear things. Now, I don't read the Wall Street Journal reguarly, but thanks to my cube neighbor at my current freelance job, I now know about an interesting chain of events linking alternative fuels to the stuff you dip your french fries into. (How dare you if mayo came to mind! Cultural obsession or not, that's just gross...) Since the WSJ isn't free, here's an article on the same topic from the San Francisco Chronicle: Heinz hopes sweeter ketchup tomatoes reduce need for corn syrup.

You can read the article yourself for all the juicy details on the economics of the corn syrup price bump. But to me the interesting thing is that the company is busy trying to create a new sweeter tomato variety.

Now, personal preferences aside, Heinz is considered by many—famous chefs included—to be the gold standard to which all other ketchups must be judged against. I wonder what might happen to the taste, texture or general quality of the ketchup once the new tomatoes are swapped in for some of the corn syrup. Will it be a noticeable difference in the same way that Mexican Coke tastes different from the Coke you and I buy in office vending machines?

Time will tell, but it's certainly amazing how something like alternative automobile fuels have a trickle down effect on our food supply. It's like the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon only he has the day off and corn is standing in his stead....