Friday, April 30, 2010

Roasted Coriander Carrots

A seven-carrot ring? Of course I’ll marry you!
Yes, as a matter of fact, crushed coriander seeds are the secret to a happy marriage. I don’t care what Dr. Ruth, Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura says. Coriander coexists wonderfully with carrots, which are compatible with any main course and will even prettify (yup, it’s a word) a salad.

Lately I’ve been using coriander seeds to brighten up any number of dishes. With its refreshing, almost lemony flavor, it adds a nice zing to fish and a variety of veggies, especially Brussels sprouts and carrots. And this is so easy, I merely crushed the seeds with a mortar and pestle, unscrewed the cap on a bottle of olive oil, and gave some carrots a few good cracks of fresh sea salt and pepper. You could also add roasted garlic, as well as spices like cumin or ginger if you want. However they shack up, it'll be a marriage of convenience and a match made in heaven. And the best part? You'll finish them off before they can file for divorce.


1 bunch carrots, preferably organic

1 TBSP olive oil

2 tsp crushed coriander seeds

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash carrots. If they're organic, no need to peel them. Just give them a good scrub with a brush. Dry, and either put in a mixing bowl or directly on a baking sheet, and coat carrots with olive oil, coriander seeds, salt and pepper. Roast for 30 - 40 minutes, turning once when brown and caramelized.

Makes about 4 servings

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ms. Frugal vs. Ms. Foodie

I am the first to admit I’m what you’d call a tightwad fiscally conscious. I don’t try to keep up with the iPhoneses. Most of the time I buy something based on whether I really need it, if it’s a good value, and how little plastic it’s wasting or slave labor it’s using. And even though I'm obsessed with eating, I don’t go out for lavish meals that often. But I don’t mind forking up the cash on certain occasions. So for my birthday, I treated myself to a trip to New York, and the plan was to eat at a few good restaurants. Would Mario Batali’s Babbo be my jewel in the crown or some other hot spot? It was a hard decision, and it soon turned into a showdown between the two sides of my brain. Here’s how it went:

MS. FRUGAL: Is the food really that good at Babbo or will we be overpaying to keep Mario’s closet stocked with orange shoes? It got lots of mixed reviews on the foodie sites.

MS. FOODIE: Yeah, but half of those reviewers thought it was the greatest thing since sliced Tuscan pane. See? Your cup, half empty. Mine? Half full.

MS. FRUGAL: But the menu is meat-heavy and kind of pretentious. Everything contains some endangered, Batali-revived and now-sustainable species. Like the pappardelle pasta with a wild boar ragu. I didn’t even know you could fit a wild boar into a jar of Ragu.

MS. FOODIE: You know Mario is brilliant, and his pumpkin luna ravioli with sage and crushed Amaretti cookies will be too. And since there’s no suckling pig in it, suck it up, tightwad. You deserve it for living this long.

MS. FRUGAL: Like you're a spring chicken. You know I don't feel comfortable in hoity-toity places. Being overpampered by strangers brings out my existential angst.

MS. FOODIE: If you’d rather be denigrated over a paper cup of lobster bisque by the Soup Nazi, he’s in the West Village too—but I’m going to Babbo. They’re within walking distance of each other. We could split up, but last time I checked, we were connected by organs.

MS. FRUGAL: Some of them are probably on the Babbo menu.

MS. FOODIE: Focus! Focus!

MS. FRUGAL: But we already had some really nice meals that were trendy but not as expensive (granted, we ordered conservatively). Are you forgetting that scrumptious moules frites with Pernod and shaved fennel we had last night at Pastis and the crepes suzette for dessert? And the night before at the Fig and Olive, we had mushroom and truffle soup, branzino ceviche with citrus, fennel, and dill, and for dessert, olive oil gelato with a blood orange caramel and turbinado shortbiscuit?

MS. FOODIE: What’s your point? Did you come to NY to eat or not? Look, we said we would have one fine meal on this trip, and I spent two hours on the phone trying to get through to Babbo exactly one month to the day in advance. If we bail now, it would be like Oliver Douglas on Green Acres climbing all the way to the top of that telephone pole, only to have Sara connect him to Jethro instead of Eb.

MS. FRUGAL: Well, since we got the coveted reservation, let’s sell it on eBay go for it.

MS. FOODIE: Girlfriend, did you even look at the dessert menu? You’re gonna go nuts for the chocolate hazelnut cake with orange sauce and hazelnut gelato.

MS. FRUGAL: You had me at hazelnut. I won’t even think about the $12. Happy birthday.

MS. FOODIE: Happy birthday.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ode to an Ish

I get peckish around two-ish

And need a snack to chew-ish

This crunchy classic, far from faddish

How I love the reddish radish

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

When Your Memory Serves You Incorrectly

On my recent trip to New York, I wanted to visit a few places that I had fond memories of from meals past. Carnegie Deli, a New York institution across the street from Carnegie Hall, is famous for its oversized corned beef on rye—my all-time favorite cold cut. I haven’t eaten the stuff in years, but I told myself that as a flexitarian, I was allowed to be flexible on this trip. I remember that sandwich like it was yesterday—six inches of moist, tender, red-hued meat between two slices of freshly made New York rye. It was the best and most corned beef I had ever eaten. One sandwich at the Carnegie Deli was enough animal to feed a small Jewish family on the upper East side or eight Osmonds in Utah.

While that obscene portion was part of its appeal to me back then, it seemed so wrong today. What would I do with that brine-cured half a cow on my plate? I couldn't split it with my friend because she didn't like corned beef, and our hotel room’s fridge was only a mini bar, so there was no place to keep leftovers. Should I order it anyway simply to fulfill my nostalgic longing? Should I find someone on the street to give it to? For years, I joked that when I became homeless, I was going to live in front of the Carnegie Deli in New York. But these days, wasted food is nothing to laugh about.

By now, the thought of all that luscious corned beef that had once proclaimed its succulent solidarity with my tummy was an ethically offensive, edible anachronism that should have been downsized long ago. Yet I wanted that delicious memory back—politically incorrect or not. It was more than just a meal. It conjured up a time and place. I remember how an old friend of mine had seen Woody Allen there in the 80s when we were both huge fans, and it was so exciting. Woody and the Carnegie Deli were like two pieces of gefilte fish in the same jelly.

Now my corned-beef averse friend and I walked over to the Carnegie to have a look. Not only was it smaller and dingier than I remembered, the smell and temperature inside made us both nauseous. It felt like we were locked in a sauna with some knockwurst. And even though the huge New York cheesecakes in the window still looked amazing, we decided to leave. Maybe that's all I needed to be awakened from that glossy memory to my current reality. But now where will l live if I ever become homeless? A shed in the garden at Chez Panisse in Berkeley might be nice. But I hear their portions are on the small side.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Irish Soda Bread with Raisins

Raisin scones or Irish soda bread? It's a sconundrum.
I'm crazy for a good raisin scone, but the idea of making Irish soda bread appealed to me because it's like one ginormous scone without portion control. That's right. A big, honkin’ hunk 'a heaven all for me. I mean, there's only one. And if you think I'm the sharing type, we've obviously never met.

Many a morning, I crave a really dense raisin scone. Not that airy, light-as-a-feather type. I want heavy. The kind that fills me up for several hours, providing shameful, guilt-propelled caloric sustenance. With this easy recipe from, I faced another sconundrum—whether to add caraway seeds like a lot of other recipes called for. I decided to try it since it's pretty common in soda bread, and I am a big fan of rye bread. Afterwards, when I got off my gluttonous high horse and shared, some people really liked this combination. But I didn't really like sharing the raisin limelight with the caraway. So to make a long sconundrum short, I preferred this bread as a sweet sans the savory. Next time, I'll leave out the seeds and add some walnuts for even more dense, caloric sustenance. Big, honkin’ scone: come to selfish momma!


Nonstick vegetable oil spray

2 cups all purpose flour

5 tablespoons sugar, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3 tablespoons butter, chilled, cut into cubes

1 cup buttermilk

2/3 cup raisins

1 tsp caraway seeds (My optional addition)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 8-inch-diameter cake pan with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in large bowl to blend. Add butter. Using fingertips, rub in until coarse meal forms. Make well in center of flour mixture. Add buttermilk. Gradually stir dry ingredients into milk to blend. Mix in raisins.

Using floured hands, shape dough into ball. Transfer to prepared pan and flatten slightly (dough will not come to edges of pan). Sprinkle dough with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake bread until brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool bread in pan 10 minutes. Transfer to rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 8 or me

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Travel Bite: A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour

One of the highlights of my recent trip to the Big Apple was A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour. I was afraid it would be cheesy, but it really delivered. Starting out in Manhattan (right) and crossing the bridge to Brooklyn (left), we were schlepped around by bus to famous neighborhoods, parks, landmarks and movie locations. Scenes from Annie Hall, Saturday Night Fever, The French Connection, etc. played onscreen as we pulled up to the precise spots they were shot. And to have tables waiting for us at two legendary pizzerias with no waiting? How you doin'?

Our good-natured tour guide, Paula, was a gem. She really knew her New York history and was very enthusiastic about her Brooklyn roots. Her father is Italian and her mother is Jewish, so I guess dad likes to steal and mom likes a steal. Did I offend? Oy, fuhgeddaboudit!

Our first pizza stop was Grimaldi's, under the Brooklyn Bridge. Famous for its coal-fired brick-oven pizza, it's one of the few pizzerias left in NYC that's allowed to use coal. First lady Michelle Obama just ate here, and Grimaldi's was FLOTUS-approved.

That's the line to get into Grimaldi's. But we traipsed right in, impervious to all the name calling and finger pointing.

It had a vintage vibe with red-checkered tablecloths and Dave Brubeck's Blue Rondo keeping the beat to each bite.

There were just three ingredients on top of the dough: fresh mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes and fresh basil leaves.

Since that coal oven cooked such glorious pies, I won't even mention their carbon footprint. But I noticed Al Gore wasn't in the line out front.

This perfect Neapolitan pizza margherita gave me flashbacks of my trip to Naples 20 years ago.

As a funny girl from Brooklyn once said, "Hello, gorgeous!"

Our second pizza stop was L&B Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst. They made spumoni and ice cream too.

Sicilian-style pies were their specialty, and no, I wasn't hungry after the two slices and drink (all-inclusive with tour) I had at Grimaldi's.

You talkin' to me?

My hands were so full with the ice cream, I forgot to snap a pic of it. I had half hazelnut, half pistacchio (the dyed green kind). And I was even less hungry by then. Way less (but weighed more).

Just to prove we could still move, we stopped for a quick stroll on the boardwalk at Coney Island. We would have gone on the Cyclone, but it had a weight limit. Afterwards, we drove through the Russian neighborhood of Brighton Beach, and I would have loved to go have gone into all the Russian markets and restaurants. But that's another day and another pants size.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Please Sir, I Want S'more

Food, glorious food blogs. A new one is born every three seconds. And now there's a place off the beaten cyber path for some of these bloggers to meet. On May 14-16, I’ll be retreating into the wilderness at Camp Blogaway in California's beautiful San Bernardino mountains with other fork-enabled, alphabetically inclined conspirators in nosh.

Like Oliver Twist, I will be thrust from my ho-hum, workaday existence into a world of colorful characters, where no outsiders will be allowed to witness the secretive doings of our obsessive ilk. Joining a gang of culinary masterminds, I will steal styling tips, learn to shoot, pick some pockets brains about search engines, nab P.R. pearls, poach recipe-writing nuggets, lift a few forks, and maybe even purloin some sirloin for dinner. Like Oliver, I will raise myself up from my blogging bootstraps and learn to seduce advertisers into paying me to sit home all day and wax poetic on a laptop in my jammies (well, not exactly like Oliver).

And if I don’t walk out of the woods with the photographic chops to be the Edward Steichen of steak and the Oscar Wilde Alaskan Salmon of gastro wit, well at least there will have been the s’mores. Valrhona chocolate, handmade vanilla bean marshmallows and artisanal graham crackers laced with the finest Vietnamese cinnamon (I may be projecting, s’more or less) alone will be worth spending two nights in a cabin bunk bed* next to other flannel-clad culinarians. How could you not embrace the theme of rich blog vs. poor, and good advertiser vs. evil, only to find that in the end, love prevails. The love of food, that is. It’s a new twist on camp. And it should be the dickens of a good time. Uh oh. I'm feeling Lentil Breakdown: The Musical coming on.

* Click on Camp Blogaway, and I could win my own private room! Pretty please? With Vietnamese cinnamon on top?