Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Gnocchi Came Naked to the Party: Nude Gnocchi a la Al Di La Trattoria

Welcome to the international gnocchi party! Hosted by Penny aka Jeroxie, my fellow guests and I have been tasked with bringing an umami-rich gnocchi dish to this virtual shindig. (There's a complete list of the other attendees, with links, and the bottom of this post.)  I took this challenge as the perfect opportunity to re-create a dish that has stuck with me for over 10 years: the malfatti, or nude gnocchi, as they are made at Al Di La Trattoria in my old digs of Brooklyn, NY.

When I first tasted these delectable pillows, I knew next to nothing about food or cooking.  I could tell something gastronomically special was going on, but I couldn't have pointed to the nutmeg, sage, Swiss chard, or brown butter as key players. I just knew I wanted more, more, more - but alas, I was broke and couldn't afford to eat out often enough to feed my malfatti addiction.  Plus I couldn't cook.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Daytime Drinking: Soju & a Movie

 Above: A very strong drink
Below: Daytime Drinking movie poster

Back in December, a rep from Eleven Arts contacted me to see if I wanted to review the South Korean independent film Daytime Drinking, to coincide with its New Orleans premier. I was a bit bemused, as film reviewing is something I've done in my other life as a journalist, but not as a blogger.  I've only ever blogged about food and drink. But, given that the film was clearly about something near and dear to my heart - booze - I thought it would be fun. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Senegalese Yassa, My Way

When we moved into our current neighborhood, Poppa Trix and I were super excited to see that there was a Senegalese restaurant within walking distance of our house. All the cab drivers eat there, which  in my book is usually a very good sign.  Unfortunately, it turns out that if you're not from Senegal and/or a cab driver yourself, your meal may take upwards of an hour to eventually find its meandering way onto your table.

Now, that wouldn't be so bad if the food were stellar. But the kitchen always seems to have just run out of the very thing I want, and the dishes they do have are literally swimming in deep rivers of palm oil. After several attempts to love this place, I realized that I had no choice: If I want Senegalese food, I'm just going to have to make it myself.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Good Luck Mini-Feast for the Lunar New Year and What To Do with Stale Bread

 Chinese almond cookies, with a Valentine's Day twist

Delicately scented tea eggs, for prosperity

Rice noodles and shrimp, for long life and happiness

My childhood,  from a culinary standpoint, was a vast wasteland of pot roasts, pork chops, pizza, and casseroles, with the occasional Pillsbury cinnamon roll or piece of peanut butter toast thrown in for variety. Vegetables were boiled or steamed, bread was white, and cakes came from a box mix. Let's face it: Like many American kids, I grew up with exactly zero food-related traditions.  A deep and enduring love for Utz potato chips is as close as I come to a cultural identity.

So if I want any food-related culture at all,  I need to look elsewhere, which I frequently do.  Enter the Year of the Tiger and my very scaled-down version of a Chinese New Year's feast. One thing that I love about this holiday is the symbolism of the food - dishes represent things like prosperity, luck, long life, happiness or good fortune. By the same token, the wrong dish may bring you bad luck or worse, so I  fervently hope that my research didn't lead me astray!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Of Bread & Dough & Lots of Snow; Or, When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Baking

 "Without bread, all is misery."
William Cobbett, British journalist, 1763-1835



After two major blizzards dumped punishing amounts of snow on us and brought commerce, fun, and life as we know it to a screeching halt, everyone in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. has developed their own version of the Snow Story by now, myself included.  You know the kind of stories I'm talking about - people getting stuck in the snow for hours, or not being able to find milk, or losing power, or having their roofs collapse from the weight of all that nasty heavy wet stuff.

And let's face it: You're sick of hearing about it, right? Well, we're sick of it too.  But given that most of our streets still aren't plowed and most things are still closed and driving around is at worst hazardous and at best incredibly annoying, it's hard to stop talking about the snow and its aftermath. There's nothing else to do. Look, people, this isn't New England or Wisconsin or Canada! We aren't used to this sort of thing. So please, bear with us.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Homemade Fettuccine, Two Ways

The first way: with fresh basil and a sauce of roasted tomato, garlic, & thyme

The second way: with butter, Parmesan, salt & pepper

Don't worry, I don't think I invented homemade egg pasta: I realize that you've probably seen something like this before.  But, much as I did with my post about homemade gnocchi, I'm going to ask you to indulge me. This is my first freshly-made-at-home fettuccine, so it's exciting.  Well, to me anyway.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

North African Eggplant & Chickpea Tagine-less Tagine, The Third and Final Installment of the Preserved Lemon Trilogy

Okay, so technically a "tagine" is a North African (usually Moroccan) dish that is cooked in a clay pot of the same name. I don't have one (yet), so I'm not sure if I can correctly call this a tagine.  Maybe I should just say "stew."  But that might give you the incorrect impression of  heaviness and heft. In fact, while this is far more stew than soup, the spices and layers of flavor combine to create an overall sensory effect of scented, perfumed lightness.  Perfect for winter, but absolutely appropriate for warm weather as well.