I daresay there is a traditional dish from somewhere on the Italian peninsula that resembles this dish in some way, but in a radical, free-form departure from our blogging norms, we didn’t follow any kind of recipe here nor do the slightest bit of research in preparation. By way of an excuse, we didn’t really have time.
We’d been out for almost the entire day on yet another soul-destroying search for a new place to live, and, feeling rather bilious and irritable, were in need of emotional restoration. Returning to our soon-to-be former residence, we passed the Japanese-run fishmongers and noticed a small pot of monkfish liver just aching to be ours. Then, passing Russo’s our neighboring Italian specialty store, we bagged ourselves a box of their freshly-made spaghetti alla chitarra. Some light cream that needed finishing off, some chopped garlic, a splash of white wine, a sprinkle of chopped parsley, and fifteen minutes later, we were enjoying a the slightly bitter, oily maritime flavor of monkfish liver with a glass of chewy, slightly leathery Basilicatan aglianico. And if we weren’t completely emotionally restored afterward, we were hopeful enough to risk making another series of appointments to see terminally-dismal overpriced Brooklyn apartments the next day. Continue Reading »
Jul 30th, 2010 by Amy and Jonny
He’s certainly not the first to make such a remark, but when in a recent episode of his PBS show Mexico: One Plate at a Time, chef Rick Bayless commented that Mexican food may be the first “fusion cuisine” in the Americas, the concept resonated with me. The collision of cultures and culinary traditions that resulted from the European conquest of the Americas had as profound and delicious consequences for its Spanish, French and English protagonists as it had on the diets of its unwilling Native American and African antagonists. Indeed, and here I understand that I’m on sensitive ground, in cultural terms one might venture that one of the few short term benefits, that became a long term legacy, of this brutal period was the fabulous variety of new dishes that resulted from this coming together of New World, European and African ingredients and techniques.
Anthropologists and historians generally agree that apart from Brazil, the islands of the Caribbean are the most “Africanized” countries of the Americas because the extraordinarily harsh conditions, and consequential high slave mortality rate, in these places required that the plantation’s human capital be almost constantly replaced, continually refreshing African traditions. This sad history has allowed for the persistence of several West African cultural traditions, in syncretic religions like Haitian voodoo and Brazilian candomblé, as well as a variety of typical dishes, in the New World. Chief among the latter of these is the filling cassava mush known throughout much of Central and Western sub-Saharan Africa as fufu. Continue Reading »
A few weeks ago we were lucky to receive a serious amount of free cheese from Ile de France. You’ve most likely seen their brie, goat cheese or St. André (which I could rub all over my body it’s that good) in your supermarket but they have so much more to offer. I only wish my grocery store carried all their cheeses. They also just redid their website and it’s an excellent way to get over 500 cheese recipes or just peruse the various cheeses they offer. After chomping down on the many cheese samples Ile de France mailed us (a vast variety including Chaumes, St. Albray, Goat and Brie) , we had alot left over. We’re kinda cheese fiends and when we’re feeling in the mood to eat cheese, we’ll go to our local shop and go a bit overboard. The cheese drawer will pile up until I can barely close it. This is never a good thing. Weeks later I’ll check out what’s at the bottom of the drawer to find shriveled bits of piave, way over-ripe, acidic smelling camembert or moldy tomme. I’ll often chop off mold or use the shriveled bitsto grate as pasta toppings, but often I’ll say a prayer, shed a tear and throw them into the garbage. It burns a hole in my heart every time! Continue Reading »
“Reach into your memory and come up with … what food actually regenerated your system, not so you can leap tall buildings, but so you can turn off the alarm clock with vigor.”
- Jim Harrison, The Raw and the Cooked
We’re certainly not the first bloggers to find ourselves stretched thin between the demands of our regular working lives and the rather strange, post-modern existence we eke out on the interwebs, and, as happens to us every now and then, we’re kind of in the middle of one of those periods right now. Combine that with the fact that it’s been crazy hot here lately — making the prospect of getting creative in the kitchen of our sweat-lodge-like four-story walk-up apartment distinctly unattractive — and our resulting culinary output has been truly meager.
On the few occasions we have been behind the burners, it’s only been for short periods, and, in this case, just long enough to cook marinaded baby octopus a la plancha in a cast-iron skillet. This is the result. It was delicious, and, yes, our apartment was a few hundred degrees for the rest of the evening. Seeking to avoid these sauna conditions, we have recently resorted to the dangerously illegal practice of grilling things over a tiny fold-up barbecue on the roof of our apartment building. With a bit of luck, the steamy conditions will break before repeated exposure to grilling temperatures melts a sink-hole into the ceiling above us. Continue Reading »
Jun 11th, 2010 by Amy and Jonny
In our humble opinion, there is a serious and shameful lack of sodas made with real sugar available in America today. When we were in Argentina last year, among the most (of many) pleasurable experiences was drinking a Coke out of a small bottle and having it taste like it used to. The fact that soda companies in America are now releasing “special” and “old school” editions that contain sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup just lampoons this ridiculous situation.
Now, we’re not exactly giant soda drinkers, and when we do indulge, we tend to go for things like San Pellegrino’s limoncita, except of course when we’re enjoying Mexican tortas (sandwiches) for lunch at the Mexican-run deli on our Brooklyn block. Then, we will always get a nice cool bottle of Jarritos, and most commonly, the flavor is pineapple (piña). Imagine our delight then, when we were recently invited to sample all 11 varieties of Jarritos. Continue Reading »
The destiny of nations depends upon the manner in which they are fed.”
- Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
The basic premise of William Alexander’s recent book, 52 Loaves, like his first title The $64 Tomato, is that the author becomes so obsessed with a particular project, in this case creating (and growing wheat for) the perfect loaf of country bread, that he devotes a year (hence the title) and a great deal of energy and money, in the pursuit of his goal.
I’ll leave aside the obvious shades of mid-life crisis that dominate the book’s context, and I’ll ignore the far-too-frequent-for-comfort discussions of Alexander’s marital relations that I feel like he included to appear less of a nerd than a bread-obsessed IT director might otherwise, and focus instead on the fact that, as with many quests, his journey ultimately became more important than his goal. Alexander’s aim may have been to master the art of baking au levain country loaves at home, but in the course of his year-long peregrinations across North America, and to Morocco and France, and wittily transcending his middle-aged, obsessive-compulsive suburban dad identity, he finds much more than a faultless bread recipe, becoming a fount of fascinating knowledge and experience about life and human history. Continue Reading »
May 28th, 2010 by Amy and Jonny
Though we are best known as intrepid gastronomic voyagers, taking our taste buds to the very corners of the globe to bring you, fortunate reader, the tastiest and most authentic delights from obscure and far-flung kingdoms, we’re also (in the same way that Clark Kent was also a brown-suit sporting hack when not moonlighting in tights and a cape) just normal workaday folk who periodically wander down to the farmer’s market on a Saturday morning and pick up some fresh, local ingredients. Yes, I know, it is almost impossible to believe, but I swear it’s true. Continue Reading »
When our readers actually read our posts, it feels really good. Because we often write a lot in our post, it is understandable why some may choose not to actually read our words. We understand how many blogs exist, and many only have time to do the “blog drive-by” (you know what I’m talking about – the “I’m going to just look at the pictures quickly then comment something like damn! that-looks-deeelissssh!” drive by? We’ve all done it). But the thing we love the most about writing a blog about food from all over the world, trying to infuse history, cultural anecdotes and as much authenticity as possible, is when we get schooled. It’s almost like a sick, food-centered type of masochism. It’s almost as if we are bent over some Argentinian, Spanish, French or Italians knee as they spank us very hard telling us how wrong we were about _______________ (insert ethnic dish of choice here). Knowing we have people actually reading what we write (and telling us how we can do things better) makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It shows us that people are actually reading our words and are interested in enlightening people about their culture. When we get something wrong on the blog, getting schooled helps us learn and grow and we love it. Continue Reading »
Being the innate pessimist that I am, watching a small boat being knocked around like a dodgem car on the rollicking, blue-grey seas at the normally placid Jersey Shore this past weekend put me in mind of the Costa de Muerte, the coast of death, on Spain’s north-west coast, where Galician fisherman have taken their lives in their hands for generations. [In a quirk of editorial fate, I may, unwittingly, have taken inspiration for this flight of fancy from the cover (then unopened) of this month's Bon Appetit, but as you will see, if you persevere, there is a mite more detail below than Barbara Fairchild typically provides.]
The ocean’s bounty has never been translated into material riches in that part of Spain, and even in modern times, in spite of renewed interest centered around its albariño and mencia wines, artisanal cheeses, and gooseneck barnacles, it remains comparatively impoverished. Consequently, Gallegos have, for generations, cast their fortunes in the wind and sought better lives for themselves in other parts of Spain and the New World, including Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela, Argentina, and Cuba. Continue Reading »
“I eat my candy with pork and beans.
Excuse my manners if I make a scene.”
-Pork and Beans, by Weezer
I could begin this post with a rose-tinted anecdote about how, during the run-up to our wedding in Italy, as Amy and I were lingering romantically over a typically rustic Tuscan dinner one warm June evening against the background of a bucolic, rolling landscape with honey-colored buildings dotted sparingly among neat rows of vines and olives — our eyes locked together over a tablescape of starched cloth, antique silver and leaded crystal — the air, heavy with the scent of lavender and the hum of cicadas, seemed to stir momentarily, as if a gust of breeze from we knew not where had suddenly, and unintentionally, loosed itself, darkening our moods and furrowing our brows with its unwelcome interruption. Continue Reading »
There is so little information available about Burma (or Myanmar, depending on how you rock it) that after the inevitable Wikipedia entry, the CIA World Factbook is the second item that appears in Google’s search results. This anonymity is largely due to the military dictatorship that has kept the country under lock and key for much of the last 50 years. Even typhoon Nargis, which smacked into the Burmese coast in the spring of 2008 killing 130,000+ Burmese, shamefully failed to change the government’s secretive operations in spite of a large international relief effort.
Burma has not always been so mysterious. During the latter half of the 19th century and first half of the 20th, the country was annexed to the British Raj of India (mostly to arrest the expansion of the French across Indochina from Laos and Vietnam), and quickly became an integral part of the British Empire supplying a rich abundance of jewels, hardwoods and spices to global markets. Indeed, the British, favoring the temperate north of “Upper Burma” over the fetid, malarial Rangoon (now Yangon) in the south, made the previously small, provincial town of Mandalay their capital, opening up that previously undeveloped area in so doing. It was during these heady days of fortune-making, steamy nights and opium dens that the sense of exoticism and opulence surrounding the city of Mandalay developed (which the Vegas casino Mandalay Bay riffs off, despite the fact that Mandalay is more than 500 miles inland). Continue Reading »
I’m not reinventing the wheel here. Korean food is slowly getting the recognition it so rightly deserves across America. Although you may not be able to find as giant a Korean menu in Des Moines as you would in Los Angeles or New York, you’d be surprised how many Korean BBQ restaurants exist. (Upon a bit of research, Des Moines did have a Korean restaurant, but, unfortunately, it closed.) My point is, Korean food could have a mass appeal if more people were exposed to it and just gave it a try. Continue Reading »