Monday, April 30, 2007

Lack of Culture

I miss Europe. It's been 3 years since, seeing the "homeland." I feel more of a connection than in the U.S. I dream of moving there, but all I have is photos, movies and books to pull me through until the next visit.
This comes because I was watcing the "No Reservations" marathon on the Travel Channel. I saw Anthony Bourdain in Mexico, Russia, Paris, the U.S., causing me to crave a vaction. One can only take school and work for so longing before needing relaxtion or culture.
My roomie is going to Costa Rica. I wanted to visit my friends in Paris, but that was a no go with the parentals. So I visit San Diego, Washington D.C., and my closest European town that supresses my need-New York City.
Ah, New York, the hustle and bustle town, where you can tell I'm not a city girl. My Southern heritage shows itself. In NYC I don't rush like New Yorkers. I admire the buildings, the food, and the life. And the Greenmarket. I love walking trying the different produce, the vendors, the daily supply of fresh food. Last year, I tried so many new fruits-sour cherries, gooseberries, argula, and New Jersey peaches- all of which were delicious.
Besides my dreams, what takes me to Europe is food. Although, I mainly stay in Mexico and Italy, my goal is to branch out. Expand to Spain where I hopefully will visit in December. I have the summer to travel through Europe through food and eventually I'll actually be able to taste the authentic dish. Maybe staying in the U.S. will bring a new experience. One in the kitchen.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Velvety white soft pearl

I'm very hesitant to try new meats, seafood, or anything with an odd texture, shape or name. I can be adventurous with produce, its cheap, but meat, seafood, and others are fairly expensive and I am very wary on wasting money on food. Except that is not the nature of a foodie. Cavier, Foie gras, or lobster. Raw salmon eggs, goose liver, or a water bug. It is the delicate food that is hard to find, or expensive to make. I for one have never had these things. Out of that list the only thing that appeals to me is lobster. It is suppose to be amazing. I wouldn't know. I have a fear of eating a meat that can stare me in the face. I feel ashamed then, that I am eating a living thing. Yes, I understand that the food is massed produced for humans, but its not ecologically sound.
I make sure to buy the vegetarian eggs, hormone and antibotic free poultry and meat, and self sustaining seafood. Why? Because I believe in global warming. I believe in sustaining this planet for the future. You can scoff, argue, and laugh, but that is not changing my mind. I'll do my part, no matter what anyone else does. It means more money, but it is my way of support. It doesn't mean I can't give up the food I love or haven't tried. It's just being conscience.
It's why I shop at Whole Foods. (No I'm not going on a "Go shop at Whole Foods," shpeal.)And by shopping at the store, I've made friends with almost everyone. One in particular is "Jack." He is one of the best people I have in Austin. He brings a smile to my face constantly, whenever I see him. Unfortunately, recently he's been ill, and I have not seen him until this week. And the moment I saw him, I brighten up. I had missed him, and didn't know it. I have a tendency to loose contact with people. If people don't call me, I live a life of solitude.
Jack's my produce guy though. I always ask what is in season. And I get samples of what ever he feels like is in season. Yesterday I asked if the blueberries were good, (it's beginning of its season in Florida), I got a yes. Corn? Yes. Strawberries? Yes.
The conversation some how moves to rabbit and I reference Homesick Texan's rabbit recipe from Robb Walsh. I explain that I was hesitant and he said he loved rabbit. I promised to make it in May after school report. I then listed things I had never eaten, lobster, rabbit, shark, cavier, scallops. The last shocked "Jack," he said he'd be right back. I looked around the produce department, he sooned returned with scallops. He proceded to tell me a recipe on how to cook them. I smiled.
"I expect a full report on Saturday," Jack said.
I cooked them this evening. They are like "velvety white soft pearls." I cooked them, shot photos of them and proceeded to eat them. After cutting into them I realized that they were not fully cooked. How do you tell if a scallop is done? They weren't translucent. I've been told they need to be fully cooked. I don't know how to describe the taste because my palate is tainted with popcorn. They were chewy, but smooth. It had a peppery taste.
I didn't hate them, but I'll need to try them again. Maybe this time I'll let "Jack" cook them for me.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Men in the Kitchen

I am all for men cooking. My father is a cook, a great cook. But to tell a person that he or she cannot enter a cooking class due to their gender is called "gender discrimination." This phrase is defined a "any action that specifically denies opportunities, privileges, or rewards to a person or a group because of their sex."
What am I refering to?
Whole Foods cooking classes. They have a "Men in the Kitchen" and a "Girl's Night Out." Only for those specific genders. While I agree that it can be fun to have a cooking class with the girlfriends, it does cause problems when your girl's night out includes a male friend. Or you guy's night, includes a girl friend.
What do you do in those situations?
Well, by Whole Foods standards you leave the guy or girl at home and only attend the class with your specific gender, which eliminates the purpose of the class. To enjoy food with friends and learn something new and exciting.
Now some might say I'm ranting, true I am, but why should I not be able to take the "Men in the Kitchen" class based on my gender? The class has the menu, I'd like to learn, while the women's class has things I can master myself. Does Strawberry Shortcake with Jack Daniel's Cream not excite any other woman, but myself?
I think that if Whole Foods is going to offer gender specific classes, then theses classes should contain similar menus or slight variations on the same menu to appeal to the audience. That way the woman or man who looks at the other menus gets to experience similiar things. Or at least give the chance for those who cannot attend the other class to get the recipe at the other class. There are many solutions that Whole Foods could take in effect. However, I think gender specific classes hinder the cooking experience, if a person wants to learn how to cook, why should a business tell him or her no?
For now, I'll inflitrate Whole Foods, by becoming a man for the night.

The value of a good steak

When you crave something so badly for three weeks, what do you do?
You cave.
Three weeks of craving steak, I caved. Sure I've caved before with other things-brisket, enchiladas, pie, chocolate, and other foods- but I had never gone so long without eating the meal I wanted. I was even going to put it off for another three weeks, I don't think I could have survived that.
When you crave something for so long, you end up going crazy. How people can go without bread, or chocolate or other scrumptious foods is beyond me.
I might add that this was the first such craving for steak since eating meat, again. I had been worried that steak and other fatty meats would have made me sick afterwards. I found that lean brisket didn't, but would a juicy steak do the trick? I didn't know and with my school schedule didn't want to find out until this week.
After craving steak for so long where do you go to enjoy such a meat?
Well, if your craving a very good ribeye, hanger steak, or really good fries. I'd suggest Lambert's in Austin. I had photographed there before for my internship and wanted to go try their menu. It was the first time in a long time, when I couldn't decide what I wanted. Everything struck me as something I could possibly enjoy-brown sugar and coffee brisket, mustard and brown sugar ribeye, a dry aged NY strip, and many other delectables. I asked the waiter for advice, he described all in a salvating way that it did not help the choice I needed to make. Then he told me that the best meat he liked was the ribeye, so I decided to go with his expertise choice. Along with fries of course.
My friend along with me, again, had the hard time of making a decision. After minutes of contemplation over the menu and a discussion with me, he decided to go for the hanger steak and mac 'nd cheese.
Soon the "meat and potatoes" meal of America came before me. I looked at the steak, realizing once again, why meat is so tasty and delicous. I picked up my knife , cut right in and took a bite. The steak had a sweet taste from the brown sugar, but I missed the taste of mustard. No matter. I scarfed it down along with the fries. The fries were herbed and covered in paprika. Very tasty. They were crisp waffle fries that weren't soggy and no oil was to be seen on the parchment paper. The way fries should be. I scarfed them down, too.
My friend must have thought that I was ravenous. Well, one I was, but the food. The food was a dance in my mouth that I didn't want to stop. Except for the mac 'nd cheese. It was a soupy mess that had no flavor. A mac 'nd cheese should be stringy and baked through and through not just the top. After the meal was over, I looked at my plate, wishing for another steak to appear, but sadly it didn't. The same with the fries. We paid the bill, declining dessert, and walked out into the Texas sun.
How'd it feel to have a steak, again?
It was absolute freedom. As a Texan, not eating meat is considered a sin. The only exception lies in Austin. And I didn't get sick. So bring on the steak!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Warmth in a Bowl

On a bad day, what do you crave?
For me it depends on the spectrum of a bad day. If it was just a hard day, I want a simple, comforting meal. Mainly of the American genre-mac & cheese, hamburger & fries or a regular sandwich. A really bad day, I crave ice cream or chocolate. Why? I'm a woman, I don't know why. A pint of beer doesn't compare to the sweet, velvetly taste of ice cream. A stressful day, means eating out, especially when money is tight. Not the best solution for a college student, but a nice meal with wine, illudes stress.
I bring this up because a friend of mine is at the breaking point. We've all had those experiences. The time when we just want to cry or say screw it. We hate those moments and would like to avoid them.
During these times, I turn to food, running and if I had one- a punching bag. The cures to a bad day. I don't know many people who have interests that allow them to destress. Maybe alcohol, but I don't believe that's a solution.
Food being one of my main ways to overcome stress, I thought my friend would enjoy a home-cooked meal. Soup is always comforting and soothing. It's the magical elixir for the flu and the soul. It's warmth begins from the inside and moves out. Is it this that brightens the day or is it the nostaligic memories?
The memories of your father making soup while you huddle in bed, shaking with a fever.
I think its the mixture of both. The warmth reminds you of the memories. Its this comfort that your stil loved even if loved ones are not around.
So the next time you have a bad day. I suggest soup, or a meal from a long lost memory.

CORN AND BELL PEPPER CHOWDER (adopted from Bon Appetit)

4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (thawed if frozen), divided
2 cups low-salt chicken broth, divided
3 tablespoons butter
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 (5- to 6-ounce) Yukon Gold potato, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 large shallots, chopped
2 tablespoons whipping cream
paprika, salt, pepper (to taste or optional)
Chopped green onions

Blend 2 cups corn and 1 cup broth in blender until almost smooth. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add next 3 ingredients; sauté 5 minutes. Add 2 cups corn, 1 cup broth, and puree from blender. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Mix in cream. Season chowder with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls; sprinkle with onions.

Makes 4 servings.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

"I'm a fat girl at heart"

I've heard a similar phrase among many of my friends, lately. I often laugh at the comment. It is not one about their weight, but on their sweet tooth.
  • Sweet Tooth a.k.a a woman's weakness; the moment when the waiter asks you if you want dessert and you per up and get a silly grin on your face; a person who cannot deny himself or herself when it comes to any sort of dessert
Of course all of these apply to me. I cannot deny dessert- cannoli, cheesecake, ice cream, cookies, pie and everything that is sweet and rich. The desserts that are too heavy and rich, I love. I know people who hate cannoli because it's too sweet, I find this a crime! When people offer me dessert, I take a bite and close my eyes. I've never seen it, but I've been told I get this look. My lips turn into a silly grin, I sit straighter, and I often moan. I open my eyes only after enjoying it, then I realize I'm being watched and get embarrassed. While people do comment on this "look," often it is in amazement and enjoyment not in mockery.
What struck this post into my fingers?
We can thank Harold Crick, "Stranger than Fiction." Odd, yes, but true. I watched it recently and was struck by the milk and cookies scene.
"Didn't your mother make you warm cookies and milk, when you had a bad day?"
Honestly, I can't remember. I remember cookies. Chocolate chip cookies use to be my thing every Friday night. I tried to change the recipe by trying different ingredients like tabisco or other spices. (This lead to many a scolding.) These were never bad days per-say. The cookies were given as treats, rewards, or in celebration.
Nonetheless, the movie inspired me to eat milk and cookies. Never really trying it before. I'm not a fan of milk. I always go for chocolate milk. This time I tried it and loved it. Milk and cookies make a beautiful pairing.
So in the future, I always suggest milk and cookies on a bad day.

Monday, April 2, 2007

One is the loneliest number

Oh my! Almost a month since my last post. A horrid sight indeed. Not like I haven't created concoctions or been trying out recipes. Or even creating recipes! I've tried new food, too. Alas, the posts I want to post are lost in notebooks. I must search them out and then upload the photos to go with them. So hold tight. I swear I'll have a riveting post tonight or tomorrow.