30 March 2007

Salsa Verde: an Indication of the Status of My Affection Towards my Dinner Guests

Tacos are hard work.
By the time I char/soak/blend the chiles and brown/braise/shred the meat and reduce the chile braising sauce and season/heat the beans and crumble the queso freso and dice the onions and mince the jalepeño and chop the cilantro and fry the tortillas and cut the avocados and slice the limes, I am a sweaty mess and my eyes are burning from the jalepeño oils because I always forget that I am not supposed to touch my eyeballs after I work with jalepeños, even if I have washed my hands seventeen times.
In any case, despite the delights of working with such wonderful ingredients, I will say again that tacos are hard work.

Therefore, I only make tacos for people whom I love. So if you ever come to my house and you get a taco, you know what that means.

Now, if you come to my house and you get a taco AND salsa verde (green salsa), which takes a little bit more effort on my part, then you know that I really do love you but I would like something from you in exchange for my epicurean exertions. Whether it be a meal at your house in the future, a mix CD, a ride on your motorcycle, or cold hard cash, you know that I have material expectations for our relationship.

If you come to my house and you get tacos but no salsa verde, that means that I am content with the status of our relationship and I need nothing from you in return aside from a yum and a hug when you go.

If you come to my house and you just get salsa verde but no taco, the salsa verde is most likely functioning as a snack, as opposed to an appetizer or a taco garnish, which means there will be no main course, which means I don’t want you staying any longer than it takes to eat the salsa verde, which means that I don’t really like you at all and I am subtly letting you know that I can’t wait for you to leave.
However, if you get salsa verde with no taco BUT the salsa verde has avocado smushed into it (YUM!), then you know that I do love you, obviously, because avocados aren’t cheap. The only reason you might not be getting a taco as well is that I am not in a particularly demonstrative mood and I am withholding my affections for the time being.

Now, if you have been to my house at least 14 times and at no point during the duration of your stay have you been handed a taco or salsa verde, I think we might need to re-evaluate our relationship. Probably what’s happening here is that we believe ourselves to be well suited for each other, and we’re really trying hard to make it work. But since I have not befittingly expressed my love for you, either with salsa verde or a taco, my subconscious is telling me that even though I think I love you, I really don’t, and I’m just pretending to love you.
But this is not just my fault, don’t pin this on me. If you wanted me to love you, all you would have to do is ask for tacos or salsa verde and then I could not say no, because I love them, and then since I made them for you, I would automatically love you, sort of like when people pick out marriage partners for their children and even though the newleyweds don’t love each other at first, they eventually learn to love each other out of necessity. It would be like that.

I hope this all makes sense. Let me know if you don’t fit into any of the above categories and I will verbally notify you of the status of our relationship.

Salsa Verde (Green Salsa)
~recipe is from my friend Jaime, who got it from her lover, Rick Bayless

1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
8 large garlic cloves, peels left on
1-2 jalepeño chiles, stemmed (Taste them first to make sure they aren’t extremely spicy, or you won’t be able to taste the salsa. True story.)
1/2 - 3/4 cup white onion, chopped finely
handful of cilantro, chopped
sugar, white or brown

Spread tomatillos, garlic, and chiles on a baking sheet and put under the broiler.
Broil for about 5 minutes, until you see blackened, charred spots on the vegetables.
Flip them over and roast until they become darkened, juicy, soft and oozy.
Pour the entire contents of the pan into a blender (with juices). Add a bit of the cilantro.
Blend into a coarse purée. Add a little bit of water if necessary.
Add the onion, salt to taste, and the rest of the cilantro leaves, to taste.
(Don’t tell anyone, but I added a little bit of brown sugar for sweetness. Sweet and spicy is quite a pleasant flavor combination.)

~Caramelize onion slices in a pan or in the oven, then chop them and add. Salsa will be sweeter.
~Raw version: Don’t roast anything, just throw everything into the blender except for the onions, which are added at the end. Salsa will be more pungent than the roasted version.
~Mash an avocado or two with a fork, then stir into salsa. Makes a satisfying lunch with leftover tortillas or just eaten with a spoon.

El Milagro tortilla chips are made right here in Chicago. They are the best that I have found since I moved here, and they have a happy song on their website that you can listen to while you eat chips. I buy them at Hyde Park Produce, but their website lists other locations at which you can find them.

24 March 2007

Three Ways to Proscrastinate When You Don't Feel Like Not Procrastinating

1. Make chocolate curls!

Procure a thick chocolate bar from your pantry or grocery store. (Thicker bars are easier to work with; they don't break as easily.)
Melt the chocolate for about 20 seconds in the microwave until it is just warmer than room temperature, but not melting.
Break the bar into manageable chunks.
Holding the chocolate with one hand and a vegetable peeler in the other, slice the peeler towards you. If the chocolate merely shatters and breaks off, the bar is not warm enough.
Reheat and try again.

Once you have made the curls, your only option is to procrastinate some more and make a dessert atop which to sprinkle the curls.

2. Alphabetize your spice drawer!

It might seem like a rather frivolous activity, one for which you may become the subject of polite ridicule from friends/ a spouse /yourself, but I daresay that my overall quality of life has improved since the day that my spices became easier to locate in a pinch.
P.S. Spices are very accessible in a drawer, as opposed to a cabinet. If you ever find yourself scrambling for your nutmeg, only to find you have three canisters of it because you couldn't find it the last two times you looked for it so you bought more at the store, I highly recommend procrastinating whatever you are supposed to be doing right now (you're obviously procrastinating, hello, you're reading a food blog), clean out a drawer, and alphabetize your spices.

3. Practice becoming an expert on your mandoline!
(The slicer, not the musical instrument. )

Stop complaining about how you can't figure out how to the work the stupid thing; just play with it, and you'll get it. Grab random fruits or vegetables in your kitchen and start slicing.
For this procrastination session, I set the mandoline on a very thin setting, ran an apple through its magnificently sharp blades, laid the slices out on a Silpat, sprinkled them with brown sugar, and baked them at 350 degrees until they crisped up. Yum!

Any more ideas on how to waste time in the kitchen? I am always open to learning new strategies in order to avoid what I am supposed to be doing at any given moment.

18 March 2007

O’Tiramisù for St. Patrick’s Day

Who says tiramisù isn’t Irish? It’s totally Irish if you make it with Bailey’s Irish Cream.
If any leprechauns are reading this and you aren’t convinced of its authenticity, just shut up until you try it, and then you won’t care if it’s really Irish or not because you’ll be in heaven, and in heaven, no one cares about anything and that’s what is so great about heaven. Besides, you leprechaun people creep me out.

Heaven and leprechauns aside, my husband and I were invited to an Irish feast for St. Patrick’s Day. For our contribution to the meal, we were assigned an Irish dessert.

An Irish dessert...hmmmm....what would we make? I found a good-looking recipe for bread and butter pudding with hot whiskey sauce. I commenced to prepare a shopping list, but then I realized that all I was really interested in was the whiskey sauce (cream, sugar, whiskey, and stick of butter), so I decided against the bread and butter pudding. I’ll probably make the whiskey sauce for dinner sometime this week. Creepy and/or mean leprechauns, you don’t get any.

After bread pudding, O’Tiramisù was obviously the next best choice! We consulted our favorite tiramisù recipe, and anytime it called for dark rum or coffee liqueur, we used Bailey’s Irish Cream (which is a type of coffee liqueur). Oh yes, and we doubled the amount of syrup, just to ensure that the cake would be adequately saturated with the creamy Irish goodness.

Traditional Italian tiramisù usually calls for ladyfingers instead of a cake, but this version is so soft and sponge-like that I prefer it over the ladyfingers. We’re not trying to be Italian, anyway.

So. This recipe is fairly high-maintenance, but I urge you to persevere, and you will thrilled with the results. I promise! (In case you were wondering, this dessert falls into Quadrant III of Fancy Toast’s Process vs. Product Comparison Chart. Its high-maintenance process results in a high-quality product, and is therefore worth the amount of time and effort given.)

~adapted from Williams-Sonoma: Dessert, by Abigail Johnson Dodge

1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

(These proportions are doubled to allow for a properly soaked cake)
1 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream (or dark rum)
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder (can be found in coffee aisle of grocery stores)

Cream filling:
6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish cream (or dark rum)
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1/2 (4 oz.) cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Chocolate curls for garnish
Unsweetened cocoa powder for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

In a bowl, whisk the dry ingredients.
In a different bowl, with a mixer at medium-high speed, beat the eggs for about 3 minutes, until pale and thick. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue beating until tripled in volume and very thick, about 3 more minutes.
Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients, and fold with a rubber spatula until gently blended.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly touched. Let cool 15 minutes, run a knife around the inside of the pan, invert the cake, remove the pan, and let the cake cool completely.

Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, and stir in the Bailey’s and the espresso powder. Set aside to cool.

Cream Filling:
The filling is made in the top of a double-broiler. (If you don’t have a double-broiler, like me, set a metal bowl on top of a saucepan with barely-simmering water. Make sure the water does not boil.) Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, Bailey’s, and espresso powder.
Use a hand-held mixer to to beat the mixture for 6 minutes, until very thick. Remove from heat and cool completely.

Using the mixer on high speed, beat the cream until stiff peaks form when the beaters are lifted.

When the yolk mixture is cooled to room temperature, add the mascarpone and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Using the rubber spatula, fold in the whipped cream.

Assembly (Whew! You’re almost there!):
Cut the cake horizontally into 3 layers.
Put one layer back into the springform pan. (Or, remove the bottom of the springform pan, close the ring, and set the ring onto a serving plate. Place one layer inside the ring. With this way, I can’t assure you that the syrup won’t leak out from under the ring.)
Brush with some of the syrup, so the cake is soggy and saturated.
Scoop one third of the cream filling and spread evenly.
Place another cake layer on top of the filling, brush with syrup, and spread with filling.
Place the third layer of cake on top, brush with syrup, and spread the remaining filling on top.
Gently tap the pan against the counter to settle its contents, then cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 6 hours or up to overnight (FYI- it’s still delicious if ou can’t wait that long.)

When ready to serve, remove sides of the springform pan. Garnish with chocolate curls, then dust with cocoa powder. Slice and serve. Watch out for little, bitter, impy leprechauns who might be trying to trip you and ruin your O’Tiramisù experience.

09 March 2007

Potato and Onion Cakes for the Temporally Challenged

go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home make potato and onion cakes go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed go to work come home go to bed

Potato and Onion Cakes
~adapted from a random magazine in a random auto mechanic shop in a random suburb of Chicago

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
coarse salt
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary, plus 6 sprigs for ramekins
1 small red onion, sliced into 6 1/4” rounds
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, grated
1 egg yolk, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Butter ramekins, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, sugar, and vinegars.
Place a rosemary sprig in the bottom of each ramekin, then lay one onion round over the rosemary.
Toss potatoes with egg, rosemary, and 2 teaspoons coarse salt.
Divide the potatoes into ramekins and dot with remaining butter.
Bake for 30 minutes, until brown.
To remove the cakes, slide a knife around the edge of the ramekin, then turn upside down.

04 March 2007

And the Winners Are...

90 entries to drool over!
90 photographs of delicious things to eat!
90 foodbloggers sharing their love for food and photography!

Does My Blog Look Good in This? just might have reached a record number of entires this month! It just goes to show that the wonderful community of food bloggers is growing larger everyday.

Thanks to all who participated, and thank you thank you thank you to our judges, Fannie, Jen, Mae, and Nicole, who graciously accepted the fun yet challenging task of judging. We discovered very quickly that it is not an easy task to judge each photo objectively. Sure, it's easy to look at a photo and say "Yum, I'd eat that!", but it gets more difficult when you have to scratch your head and say, "Hmmm... the composition of this photo is more aesthetically pleasing than that photo, although I'd rather put this photo in my mouth than that photo, but on the other hand, that photo is so unique, and hmmmmmm...."
Thank goodness we have three different categories with which to rate each picture, so that each photo's strengths can be honored!

The judges and I have finally put our scores together, and amid the sea of beautiful photographs, some sure winners have emerged:


Blanc, Lait, Noir: La Mousse Tri-Choco by Stanislas at Blanc D'Oeuf, taken with a Canon 400D & Sigma 105 Macro f/2.8.



Coconut & Cardamom Candy by Gattina at Kitchen Unplugged, taken with an Olympus SP 500 UZ.


Chocolate Pudding & Meringue Spoons by Lara at Cook and Eat, taken with a Canon 20D.

Ginger Mint Tisane by Lynne Daley at Cafe LynnLu, taken with a Canon 5D with 100mm macro.

Entry #49: Orgasmic Mac-n-Cheese by Amanda &Tyler at What We're Eating, taken with a Canon Digital Rebel.


What a delightful collection of photographs!
Congratulations to the winners!

The rest of the gorgeous entries can be viewed in the gallery.
If you're hungry for more, visit Culinary Curiousity for the next round!
Winners, if you like, you can use one of these tags that Matt created for the competition.