Sunday, June 27, 2010

Travel Bite: An English-Breakfast Theory

When I was in London a couple of years ago, this breakfast of clogged-artery champions was included with my hotel room in Bloomsbury near the British Museum (toasted Wonder® bread and packets of jam not pictured). I have a theory about this type of English breakfast. They serve it so the hotel can charge you for the days you're in the hospital due to cardiac arrest if you haven't officially checked out of the room yet.

When I returned to London last year, in an effort to potentially bypass a quadrupled hotel bill, I chose a Notting Hill hotel that served this continental breakfast (croissants are the good cholesterol, right?).

My advice is if you're planning to have a heart attack while visiting England, check out of the room first. That way, with their nationalized healthcare system, your hospital/hotel room will be covered.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Not Tonight, I Have a Blog Ache

After a cruel day of deadlines, a $1600 mechanic’s bill, and intermittent flashes of early onset Alzheimers, I went into my kitchen to blow off steam. I was going to work my magic from whatever ingredients I could scrounge up. There would be no farmer's market foraging, food fluffing, pretty plating, blurred backgrounds, natural lighting or macro settings. No downloading, uploading, writing, rewriting, editing and hitting Publish.* Tonight was going to be a blog-free me-fest. Just me, my mojo and I.

I chopped. I minced. I diced. I was jammin’ on my knife like Muddy Waters on his axe, wailin’ the blues. Got my mojo working, got my mojo working, Got my mojo working but it just won't work on you. But it uh uh just won't work on you.

I sautéed. I flambéed. I simmered. I was Hendrix with my sauce pan. You should have heard my version of Are You Experienced. Hell yeah I was experienced. I was Hendrix playing with his teeth. My scorching licks could have made a Jonas brother weep.

I sprinkled. I salted. I seasoned. I was Ravi Shankar with my fennel seeds. Into the pan and out to the universe. Long, sustained notes of fragrant nirvana. That’s when I blew the roof off the kitchen. I felt the hot lights and the players and the energy and forgot all about my client and my valve job and my waning memory. My soulful chops reached up to the heavens and kissed the sky.

As those powerful vapors filled the air, I was dizzy and drenched. It was time to sit in the audience and savor the sweet sounds of supper. I tasted. I swallowed. I sighed. I clapped. I whistled. I cried for more. I was on fire tonight. The meal was so good. So mine. And so gone.

* Except for this blog post

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Strawberry-Rhubarb Galette

Dad, wherever you are, I hope you can taste this.
My Dad was lucky he didn’t have to choose between my Strawberry and Rhubarb Crumble and this Strawberry-Rhubarb Galette. He passed away four years ago, but I can still hear the zeal in his voice when he spoke of strawberry-rhubarb pie. It was one of his favorites, so in honor of Father’s Day, this is for him.

With no lattice top or formal crust-building requirements, the rustic galette is essentially a lazy man’s pie. And since sometimes I feel like a lazy man (except for the ovaries and all), I chose to make a galette. The recipe makes two crusts, and I had frozen one ball of dough when I made my Seductive Leek and Mushroom Tart, so it was easy to bang out a quickie (hmmm, that didn't sound too Father's Day-like, did it?) fruit-filled dessert. The combination of tart rhubarb and sweet strawberries strike the perfect balance. I knew I would be serving it with ice cream, so I didn’t overdo it with the sugar. If you’re planning to serve it plain, you may want to up the sweetness a bit.

When I hear the words strawberry rhubarb, I’ll forever think of my father. And Dad, if you have wireless where you are, sorry that your daughter can still be nasty sometimes even though she's officially a grown-up. Just know that she's sending her strawberry-rhubarb love out to you and the universe.


Pâte Brisée (from Martha Stewart)

Pâte brisee is the French version of classic pie or tart pastry. Pressing the dough into a disc rather than shaping it into a ball allows it to chill faster. This will also make the dough easier to roll out, and if you freeze it, it will thaw more quickly.

Makes 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust 9- to 10-inch pies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (for Cornmeal Pâte Brisée, replace ½ cup flour with ½ cup cornmeal)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.

With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.


2 cups rhubarb (more or less), chopped into ½ inch pieces

3 cups strawberries (more or less), cut in quarters or halves, depending on size

½ cup sugar

2/3 of a lemon

3 TBSP corn starch

Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Toss rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and a pinch of salt in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate or equivalent-sized oval dish.

Roll out the dough on a piece of parchment paper. Place parchment paper and dough on a baking sheet. Put all of the filling on the dough. Fold dough over in rustic tart fashion. You can add an egg wash for color if you like.

Bake until crust is golden and fruit is bubbling, about 40 to 50 minutes.

Serves about 6

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Strawberry and Rhubarb Crumble

Don’t make me choose between a galette and a crumble.
Pies, tarts, galettes, cobblers, crisps, crumbles, cakes, breads, muffins—and if I’m leaving anything out that I could fill with fruit, I beg of you—please don’t tell me. Because now that it’s rhubarb season, it’s hard to decide what to make. And since I’m the queen of indecision, rather than make a decision, I made two desserts. Both with strawberries and rhubarb.

First I embarked on a strawberry rhubarb galette (recipe to come in my next post) since I had a tart dough in the freezer from when I made my Seductive Leek and Mushroom Tart (why I call one a tart and another a galette is beyond me. Yes, the leek and mushroom one is technically a galette. Just go with it.). Then I decided (yes, a decision!) to make this strawberry and rhubarb crumble from Bon Appetit. It’s not just your standard crumble, though. It has an oat and hazelnut streusel topping. But the toasted hazelnuts have so much personality, I think they compete a little for the strawberry rhubarb's starring role. Next time I may use roasted almonds or walnuts instead for a more subtle performance.

I can humbly say that the crumble and galette were both winners. But please don’t go all Sophie’s Choice on me and force me to pick a favorite. How can I choose between a flaky, buttery crust and a sweet mélange of oats and hazelnuts? Which one would Meryl Streep choose? I don't know, but I’m sure her strawberry rhubarb accent would sound much more authentic than mine. But then that’s why she’s Meryl Streep and I’m the queen of indecision.

Recipe (from Bon Appetit)

8 servings


3/4 cup all purpose flour

2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar

Large pinch of salt

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup husked hazelnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1 pound strawberries, hulled, halved (about 4 cups)

12 ounces rhubarb (preferably bright red), ends trimmed, stalks cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick pieces

Vanilla ice cream


Combine flour, 2/3 cup sugar, and salt in medium bowl; whisk to blend. Add butter. Rub in with fingertips until mixture sticks together in clumps. Mix in oats and nuts. DO AHEAD Topping can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Place 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; whisk to blend well. Add strawberries and rhubarb to sugar in bowl; toss to coat well. Scrape fruit filling into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle oat topping evenly over filling.

Bake crumble until filling bubbles thickly and topping is crisp, about 45 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes. Spoon warm crumble into bowls. Serve with ice cream.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Six Freezing Degrees of Al & Tipper's Separation

The moment I read that Al and Tipper Gore decided to split was when my world went topsy turvy. It was like finding out that Mother Teresa was really an anti-semite and Hitler was a mentsch. The poster couple for soulmated matrimony, Al and Tipper seemed mature enough to weather any storm—even global warming. I mean, If they can’t make it work, who can? And as I sought solace in my friends Ben and Jerry, I decided to ponder the possible reasons for the split through six flavors of B&J ice cream. (Click on the titles to see pics of the ice cream.)

1. Chubby Hubby® Fudge Covered Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels in Vanilla Malt Ice Cream Rippled with Fudge & Peanut Butter

With his expanding role as eco titan and the ambassador for climate change, did Al simply get too big for his britches? Did winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Academy Award, Grammy and Emmy feed his ego a tad too much? Even if Tipper thought he was becoming a little too full of himself, I’m sure this kind of bloated bluster was nothing new to her, being a politician’s wife. She loyally stood by her fat man through his post-election paunch. But as time went on, perhaps his colossal new calling started encroaching on their coupledom. When he outgrew his pants size, did he outgrow her too?

2. Fossil Fuel™ Sweet Cream Ice Cream with Chocolate Cookie Pieces, Fudge Dinosaurs and a Fudge Swirl

Did Al’s gospel-like fervor about our overreliance on fossil fuels make him think that we were also too reliant on other things, like, say spouses? Did his espousing energy independence result in a new go-it-alone mentality? Perhaps his notion of self-reliance went too far when he thought he could replace Tipper with a solar panel and low-energy bulbs. A dim-watted idea, if you ask me.

3. Maple Blondie Maple Ice Cream with Blonde Brownie Chunks & a Maple Caramel Swirl

While a lot of people are speculating that an affair is the culprit, I can categorically confirm that another woman was involved. This split has hanging chads written all over it and is the certifiable work of Katherine Harris—the conniving Florida Secretary of State who handed Shrub the election (before the Supreme Court slam-dunked it). Without Harris, Al would have been POTUS, and as FLOTUS, Tipper would have had her own spotlight to shine in. Not to mention Al would not have experienced the PTSD that he still must suffer from by being cheated out of the presidency. Although Harris’ hair is not really blonde—or red, for that matter—Maple Blondie toppled both a nation and a marriage.

4. Imagine Whirled Peace™ Caramel & Sweet Cream Ice Creams Swirled with Fudge Peace Signs & Toffee Cookie Pieces

Did Al become so idealistic in his pursuit of saving the planet that mundane domestic duties became too rooted in reality? Could he still enjoy a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s while the polar ice caps were melting? Winning the Nobel Peace Prize may have augmented his larger-than-life role and given him even more license to think big.* Perhaps more of his passion was going out to the universe than to his wife, and he should have tried saving his marriage along with the planet.

*See Chubby Hubby

5. Karamel Sutra® A Core of Soft Caramel Encircled by Chocolate & Caramel Ice Creams & Fudge Chips

While Al was away exploring civic discourse, perhaps Tipper would have preferred a little more intercourse. He spent the last 10 years reinventing himself, and she was probably ready for a little somethin’ somethin’ of her own. As an empty nester, this wife was rife for a new position (maybe another threesome besides Ben & Jerry). Did she have enough of his planetary do-gooding and was ready to be bad? Sounds like sunrise in Cougar town to me. Me-ow!

6. Chocolate Therapy™ Chocolate ice cream with chocolate cookies and swirls of chocolate pudding

With all of Al’s traveling, was Tipper spending more quality time with Ben and Jerry than her Chubby Hubby (although no longer chubby)? In my opinion, quality time is always better spent with Ben and Jerry than a spouse. But in the end, she might have simply not found it satisfying anymore and had finally had her fill. Of Al—not Ben and Jerry!

Banana Split Banana & Strawberry Ice Creams with Walnuts, Fudge Chunks & a Fudge Swirl

With great sadness, I wish the Gores well. And I hope they can both still be friends with Ben and Jerry. Like Al, I’m still waiting for that recount. But not a calorie count. That would be an inconvenient truth.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ode to a Monk

We fly so high above the choir

My nutty, naughty frequent friar

Before I had you, who’d ‘a thunk

I’d get such pleasure from a monk

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mango and Red Pepper Salsa

Do this salsa, and you'll be dancing with the stars.
Be prepared for irrepressible dancing in your mouth with these radiant ingredients. Tropical mango, roasted red pepper, red onion, cilantro and jicama all star in this bold salsa to create a big burst of yowza with any partner you pair it with. It's especially delish with fish, particularly wild Alaskan salmon, but who am I to tell you who to dance with? (Though I strongly advise against B-list celebrities.)

This routine is so easy, you barely even have to lift a finger or a toe. The hardest part is roasting the red pepper. However, if you're not feeling athletic, then don't bother turning on the oven. Just use the pepper raw for Chrissake. But like I've said before, keeping roasted red peppers around really comes in handy. The jicama is mostly for texture, so if you don't have any, you won't be penalized, but I like the extra crunch. This is best eaten about an hour after you make it, but who could blame you if you can't hold out for that long. Go ahead and get your groove on. With this salsa, the dance floor is all yours.


1 large mango, chopped

1 TBSP roasted red pepper, diced

2 tsp red onion, diced

1 tsp cilantro, chopped

1 - 2 tsp jicima, diced

Put the cut-up ingredients into a bowl. Chill for an hour and serve.