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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

grapefruit-seed-extract-main_FullThe Grapefruit has a spectacularly complex personality.  It is unapologetic in its imperfect, enigmatic state of flavor.  It is simultaneously sweet, sour and bitter – yet its taste remains disarmingly balanced and curiously pleasant.  It is neither small nor big, its skin neither thick nor thin, smooth nor bumpy.  Underneath its sunset-gradient peel of pinks, oranges, and yellows is a punchy, vibrant, uniform hue of ruby-pink.  It is even consumed in a uniquely ritualistic fashion, both functionally and aesthetically – sliced along its equator, glittering triangles exposed, dislodged and consumed – one small wedge after another, before the pink walls are scraped down and the flimsy shell is pressed together to release the last remaining stream of tart juice onto the serrated spoon (which was, of course, created expressly for said occasion).   Somewhere in the history of evolution, the Grapefruit emerged as a fine, respectable, sophisticated member of the citrus family, and is surely the envy of many a one-note fruit.

Photo: ehow.com

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To Judgey:

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Yeah, that’s right– I bought a whole pumpkin pie.  And yeah, I live alone– so yeah, it’s for myself.  And you know what else? It tastes really good and I don’t have to share it.

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Bouchon Bakery Nutter Butter Cookie

I may be in love with Thomas Keller.  And I say that without ever having eaten at French Laundry or Per Se.  In fact, my first encounter with the wonder that is Mr. Keller was entirely conceptual, when Adam Sandler was making a sandwich in the movie Spanglish.  He sliced it in half and a river of egg yolk gushed out between 2 slices of rustic bread and enveloped bacon, lettuce and tomato in a puddle of marigold glory.  After Googling “Spanglish sandwich,” I discovered that this mind-blowing concoction was the genius of Thomas Keller, and that since, that sandwich has been dubbed (arguably) “The World’s Greatest Sandwich.”

But I digress.  This post is about a cookie.  Now, I’m not going to trivialize all of this “I love TK” talk with esoteric foodie babble and over-inflated claims of superior taste and texture.  In fact, I can easily say that I’ve had better cookies.  But, what I love about this one, this reinterpretation of the classic Nutter Butter, is that it represents the ideal answer to that oftentimes regretful question: what do you want to be when you grow up?

You look at this cookie and you know Thomas Keller the Kid loved his junk food.  And you know he still does because he feels the need to recreate them, as if some alternate is going to do anything other than just taste like another (albeit more “quality”) version of a perfectly delicious original.  But, it does manage to do something more – it transports, it reminds, it makes people feel warm and fuzzy and childish and indulgent – and under the prestigious halo of the Thomas Keller brand, it even manages to put “Nabisco” and “luxury” into the same thought.

It’s a creative soul who loves something, anything, to the point where (s)he wants to express that passion in some alternate form that will validate the feeling even further.  The lucky ones figure out how to do it and make a living out of it – and this is what I imagine Thomas Keller has done with his whimsical reinterpretations of humble, nostalgic sweets (Nutter Butter, Oreo, Ho-ho).  So TK gets to do a little happy dance for being a Kitchen Wizard, and the rest of us get to say, “ooh, remember Nutter Butter? They were soooo good, I want to try this because I loved Nutter Butter and this is called Nutter Butter except it’s by TK not Nabisco so it’s probably better.”

Maybe I’m getting overly-sentimental about all of this because I’m at a crossroads in my life (like all the other 20-something-year-old’s out there) where I’m trying to figure out just what the hell I should be doing that will get me as close as possible to the answer I used to give to that question when I was a kid… whatever that answer was.  Meanwhile, Thomas Keller gets to say that he perfects cookies, one-up’s corporate biscuit giants, creates and casts sandwiches in Hollywood movies, chills in Napa and gets people to pay him large sums of money to surrender themselves to his culinary vision.  Lucky son of a bitch.

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ugly/pretty/gross/yummy

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As you can see, I couldn’t not take a picture of this.  Laziness and hunger almost took over, but one bite in and I came to my senses.  I have to say, though, that I’m a bit conflicted with the looks of this one.  On one hand, I can’t deny its beauty – the amazing ruby-pink starbursts with chocolate brown edges, all laminated in thick, glossy amber honey.  Makes me want to go run out and buy brown suede boots and a rosy cashmere scarf for fall.  On the other hand, there’s something a little gross about a fig up close – all the little seeds embedded in the ripe flesh, everything all mushy and pink – frankly, it makes me all too aware of the fact that fruit = edible ovary…or, as Jeffrey Steingarten says, “an ovary we eat for dessert.”  Incidentally, a fig isn’t even a fruit, it’s actually a flower– but bottom line– the fig can look a bit gross.

In this case, I’ll conclude that it was more lovely than not.  The snack toast you see above, as I’ll call it, was my answer to an early afternoon hunger pang.  I spread a thin layer of peanut butter over a slice of whole grain toast, topped it with some fig medallions and drizzled over some honey.  I wasn’t sure about combining figs with peanut butter, but figs have a creamy, mellow sweetness to them that is almost akin to a banana, which I frequently partner with peanut butter..and with the honey, it was divine.  I just love the imperfect pattern of irregular circles, the jeweled tones, the nutty whole grains, just the wholesomeness of all the ingredients.  It was a chic little snack… it was like PB&J 2.0.

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‘Tis the season

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No, I’m not about to be that annoying person who starts talking about Christmas in August – and I say that because this past weekend I saw Christmas decorations in Costco and this morning the Rockettes performed “Christmas in August” on the Today Show.  Don’t get me started on that nonsense.

Nope, this is about the Season of Tomatoes, which is currently in full swing.  Ever since I had the Pappa al Pomodoro I wrote about in my previous post, I’ve been haunted by this deliriously delectable vegetable (sorry, I know it’s technically a fruit but it’s a veggie in my book).  In any case, I picked up a lovely box of heirlooms at the Union Square Greenmarket the other day, and spent a good hour marveling over them.  The colors were straight out of a Crayola 64 Crayon Set…Burnt Sienna, Brick Red, Dandelion, Blue Violet mixed with Fern Green.  The forms could have read from some children’s First Book of Shapes… lumpy, bumpy, round, oval, oblong.  Altogether and in short – marvelous.

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For a light summer dinner, I sliced up a few of these beauties and tossed them with pesto-flecked spaghetti, fruity olive oil and a salty dusting of Parmigiano-Reggiano.  The pesto was actually home-made — a few days prior I had decided to put my new food processor to work by pulverizing some leftover basil and mint I had in the fridge.  I didn’t have any pine nuts or walnuts on hand, but I did have some sunflower seeds so I tossed those in as a substitute.  An alternative recipe, I know, but in the end you really can’t go wrong with garlic + fresh herbs.  And what I learned that evening is that you definitely can’t go wrong when you add in some sweet summer tomatoes…

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Tomato, simply

pappa al pomodoroThere are a few foods I recall disliking immensely when I was young, only to have gradually and unexpectedly come to love over the years. The tomato is one of them. As a child, I simply couldn’t stomach the slimy, pulpy insides.  And the taste was just too “of-the-garden,” making me very aware of the fact that I was eating a Plant. There was no quicker way to ruin a burger than by adding a slice of tomato, and my mother’s insistence that it would add a lovely freshness to the sandwich only strengthened my desire to keep my meat patty naked and undisturbed.

Today, I love the tomato for its rich, sweet, yet pleasantly tart flavor. Its garden-fresh taste is a welcome addition.. its juiciness a palate-cleanser to richer foods. It is the symbol of a ripe summer, and a few days ago it was heroically featured in a delicious soup at Morandi.

Pappa al Pomodoro was the soup special that day, and it came chilled in a shallow dish. It was light in mouthfeel and intense in taste, with classic flavors of garlic, basil and balsamic vinegar. The soup had a slightly chunky texture that I later found out was bread– as Pappa al Pomodoro is made with stale bread that soaks up the juices of the tomato and thickens the soup. The result is surprisingly light, however, so much so that I mistook the tiny bread crumbs for celery or onion bits. It was a pure dish that honored only a few ingredients – seemingly humble yet sophisticated under the spotlight.

I ate the soup slowly, alternating with sips of a crisp Soave, and occasionally with some bites of crusty white bread dipped in fruity olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. It was a lovely, simple summer meal, and as I sat there enjoying practically-unadulterated Tomato, I felt very grown-up indeed.

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It’s terribly difficult for me to say no to ice cream, especially when it’s mint chocolate chip in the summer.  There’s something so perfect about that combination of cool and creamy when the weather is warm and you’re out for a post-dinner stroll.  I went with the kiddy-sized cup and the guy packed it to the edges, leaving me feeling particularly indulged and somewhat childish in my delight with that.  But the best part was that it came with a long, parfait-style spoon.  I am bizarrely obsessed with long stemmed utensils.  They feel elegant…and they also keep a safe distance from stickiness (I always eat my oatmeal with a long stemmed spoon).  And I absolutely loved the pink color of the spoon against the mint green of the ice cream– it reminded me of my bedroom when I was little.  I made it home just as the rain drops started, and even managed to save my last bite for a picture.

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