Saturday, November 24, 2007

A New Thanksgiving Favorite -- Smitten Kitchen's Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette

Oh such a delicious savory pie! Another Deb, aka Smitten Kitchen, created this marvelous dish that has become my family's newest Thanksgiving favorite!

Here's my brother at the end of the buffet table (after taking a large serving of the butternut squash and caramelized onion galette) showing his gratitude for the feast.

If you noticed a family resemblance, that's because he's Tyler's dad.

About the galette, I made a few alterations to the original recipe, including using non-fat Greek-style yogurt instead of sour cream in the crust, and mozzarella cheese for fontina in the filling. But, because I know you enjoy these, I made a movie of how I made the galette. I apologize for the clippy audio. No idea how that happened, except maybe in the upload from my camera to the computer. Also, it was my first time using the camera staged on a mike stand with a Gorilla pod. I will improve, I promise. For now, though. Hope you enjoy the movie below. It's divided into three segments because the whole thing is 23 minutes long.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cookbook Review: Morimoto, The New Art of Japanese Cooking

Back in August, I was contacted by DK Publishing to review the new book by Chef Masaharu Morimoto, Morimoto -- The New Art of Japanese Cooking. I finally had some time to read the gorgeous, coffee-table-sized cookbook and try a couple of the recipes.

First, the majority of the recipes in this book are NOT for beginners. However, I did try the Crab Naan and Bagna Cauda Morimoto-Style recipes a couple of days ago, and was duly impressed with the results. Normally, I noodle around with the recipes, but in this case, I followed them strictly to the letter.

What would be useful in a future edition (or a future book by Morimoto) is the approximate length of time each recipe takes to prepare. Had I not budgeted time in advance, I would have failed to deliver the bagna cauda with the naan.

On the other hand, the ingredients for this recipe were pretty easy to find (unlike some of the other recipes in the book) and use.

As far as the flavors and taste were concerned, my guest, Thom and I were not disappointed. Thom thought the naan tasted more like naan than previous versions I've made. He also like the addition of the crab. Because I had a job interview the following day, I didn't eat too much of the bagna cauda since it was pretty much pure garlic. But, it was tasty. I would make both again, but I probably would add some spices to the naan. Other than the crab, it was plain.

Overall, the book is very well done, but probably targeted to a more advanced foodie than I am. Also, not many of the recipes are vegetarian, so I'm not sure I'd recommend it for my vegan or vegetarian friends. It would probably make an impressive gift for someone who truly enjoys trying new Asian foods and cooking complex recipes.

Below is a short movie that shows how I made the recipes. I've also included a bonus recipe for Pakoras that I thought were far tastier than the naan and bagna cauda.

Famous Fat Dave Takes Us On A Veggie Food Tour of NYC

If you've been reading the food blogs for a while, you should be familiar with Famous Fat Dave, The Hungry Cabbie. If you have never heard of Dave, it is my pleasure to introduce you to him. Everyone, meet Dave.

Before becoming a New York City cabbie back in 2001, Dave worked for a variety of food stores: Orwasher’s Bakery, Guss' Pickles, Nathan’s hot dogs, and Murray’s Cheese. But Dave is probably best known for his wonderful food tours of New York, Famous Fat Dave’s Five Borough Eating Tour On The Wheels Of Steel.

Because I've long wished to experience Dave's food tours, I asked him if he could take me (and my young nephew Tyler -- you've seen him before on this blog) on a vegetarian tour, specifically the Chunky but Funky Monkey Package. Dave readily agreed.

Almost two weeks ago, Tyler and I took the train from New Brunswick, NJ, into Penn Station, where we met up with Dave and his wheels of steel.

After only seconds in his car, Dave surprised us with a cheesey appetizer -- Ewephoria sheep's milk gouda from Murray's Cheese Shop. It was mighty tasty. Tyler and I both enjoyed breaking off tiny pieces of the cheese because we knew we were just at the beginning of a foodie odyssey.

Dave explained our options to us as we munched on the Ewephoria.

We decided not to spend an inordinate amount of time in the lower east side's eateries, but to get a taste, our first stop was Kossar's Bialys. If you've never had a bialy before, you would think it was a cousin to a bagel. You'd be correct to a certain extent, except that bagels are boiled before baking and bialys are not.

Dave selected one garlic and one onion bialy for Tyler and me to try. We both enjoyed the chewy, doughy bits, but saved most of the bialys so we could use them to cleanse our palates between tastings. (And, we didn't want to fill up early. We had several hours of grazing ahead of us.)

Next came the pickles.

We drove to the Pickle Guys store and tried a variety of pickles (new, half-sour, three-quarters sour and full sour).

We also tried pickled garlic, which was surprisingly sweet, pickled green beans, and olives.

I liked the almond-stuffed olives the best.

We spent the majority of our time in Brooklyn after the pickle experience. First, we stopped at Waterfalls Cafe for a truly excellent sandwich of fried cauliflower and tahini. We didn't eat in the cafe, however, because Dave had a delightful surprise for us.

We dined by the Hudson River, Tyler and I, sharing the tasty, tangy pita sandwich. Way in the distance, we could see the Statue of Liberty.

Tyler and I agreed that one of the highlights of the dining experience was the pita sandwich. It was like falafel, but ten times better.

Next, we traveled to Ferdinando's in Brooklyn for some squid and octopus salad (for Tyler and Dave) and broccoli rabe (for me, primarily).

Next off to Red Hook...

We sat in this lovely greenhouse of sorts in front of the legendary Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies in Red Hook, eating our seafood salad and greens.

Tyler really liked the seafood salad, but what about the broccoli rabe?

It was a bit bitter.

After we picked up a "swingle" for Tyler, we headed out to a nice little park with a great view of the Statue of Liberty. Yes, that's me on the left.

Here's Tyler's "swingle," the dark chocolate-dipped key lime pie on a stick.

He LOVED it.

Next, we headed out to Bensonhurst for thick pizza slices (Sicilian style) at L&B Spumoni Gardens. (My apologies for the poor audio in the next clip.)

Soft, yummy slices with the cheese under the sauce. It's very traditional and tasty.

Tyler also tried the spumoni.

It's served in a traditional Italian ice cup, but it looks more like gelato.

Probably my favorite new taste came when we headed back to the Gramercy Park neighborhood of Manhattan for a warm sesame bagel spread with fresh whitefish salad at Ess A Bagel.

It was like great tuna salad, but much less fishy and so much more tastier. I'm definitely going to have to visit a Jewish deli soon for another great warm bagel with whitefish salad.

Finally, we ended our trip at Pommes Frites, Belgian-style fries served with a huge variety of flavored mayonnaises. I'm not a big fan of fries with mayo. Too artery-clogging and rich for me, but the fries were pretty good. We tried parmesan peppercorn, horseradish and pesto mayos.

The fries are served at these odd little tables with holes to hold drinks and the fries, which are served in paper cones.

Overall, Dave's food tour was loads of fun, and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone visiting New York City. Just remember that our tour was customized for us. He usually takes people to some of the places, but you can ask for exactly what you want, and I'm sure he'll accommodate your needs.

Contact Dave here. You'll be happy you did.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

VeganMoFo Meme

Yes, I know. I haven't been a vegan in quite some time. However, I love vegans, vegan food, vegan cookbooks, vegan blogs and things veganesque. Speaking of vegan bloggers, Bazu at Where's the Revolution posted a meme with all kinds of interesting questions. Since Bazu tagged all readers, I'm taking up the challenge with the meme below. Please consider yourself tagged if you haven't already participated. Let me know when you've posted yours. I'll happily come read it.

1. Favorite non-dairy milk? Currently, it's unsweetened vanilla almond milk, although vanilla rice milk comes in a close second.

2. What are the top 3 dishes/recipes you are planning to cook? Coconut biscotti, carob orange French cake, and another pear pie.

3. Topping of choice for popcorn? I'm a purist. Salt.

4. Most disastrous recipe/meal failure? Either millet or the time I murdered a pound of asparagus with several lemons.

5. Favorite pickled item? Pickled string beans from the Famous Fat Dave food tour (soon to be posted here).

6. How do you organize your recipes? Not very well. John and I were just talking about buying me a very large accordian folder for the printouts and pages from magazines.

7. Compost, trash, or garbage disposal? We use trash and the garbage disposal. I wish I owned my house and yard in a place where we could compost. Unfortunately, our homeowners' association is way behind the times.

8. If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 3 foods...what would they be (don't worry about how you'll cook them)? Bananas, avocados and brown rice.

9. Fondest food memory from your childhood? Mom teaching me how to eat pomegranates.

10. Favorite vegan ice cream? My Perfect Vegan Scoop.

11. Most loved kitchen appliance? A tie between my immersion blender and stand mixer (both by KitchenAid).

12. Spice/herb you would die without? Salt

13. Cookbook you have owned for the longest time? Ironically, although I've technically owned my Moosewood cookbook the longest, it was in my mother's bookshelves for 10 years.

14. Favorite flavor of jam/jelly? Orange ginger marmalade.

15. Favorite vegan recipe to serve to an omni friend? Peanut butter cookies.

16. Seitan, tofu, or tempeh? Seitan.

17. Favorite meal to cook (or time of day to cook)? Probably Indian food -- naan, dal, saag. MMM.

18. What is sitting on top of your refrigerator? Our rice maker and vitamins.

19. Name 3 items in your freezer without looking. Pistachio nuts, cornmeal, and tomato sauce.

20. What's on your grocery list? I just went shopping this morning, so nothing for a change!

21. Favorite grocery store? Whole Foods, but it's too expensive, so we go to Stop and Shop.

22. Name a recipe you'd love to veganize, but haven't yet. I'm working on a carob spice cake and am nearly there. Just can't nail down the eggs yet.

23. Food blog you read the most (besides Isa's because I know you check it everyday). Or maybe the top 3? David Lebovitz, Culinary in the Desert, and Cream Puffs in Venice. If I were truly shameless, I'd post my other blog. So there! :D

24. Favorite vegan candy/chocolate? Carob mint creams.

25. Most extravagant food item purchased lately? Non-vegan items I won't say.

26. Veganaise or Nayonaise? Mustard!

27. What is one recipe or ingredient or cooking technique that you've become familiar with in the last year that you can't imagine you ever lived without? Using pureed white beans to replace up to 1/2 the fat in a recipe. Super idea!

28. What would be your last vegan meal? Definitely an Indian feast ending with my vegan ice cream.

29. Make up your own question to put here (and answer it!)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Product Review: Maverick Digital Oven Thermometer -- Update

I probably complain about my oven at least once a week (if not more, depending on how often I use it). Appliance experts have examined it and declared it to be of sound mind and body. I beg to differ.

To prove the point, I purchased a Maverick Digital Oven Thermometer, which works via a probe hanging from one of the oven shelves.

What I've discovered is that my oven will not keep a steady temperature of 325 degrees F. That's a huge problem since most baking recipes call for 350 degrees F, which I must cut by 25 degrees F when I use agave nectar. Yesterday, I found myself turning the dial to nearly 200 degrees F in order to achieve a good result when baking a cake. What a pain!

In the meantime, I'm saving my pennies for a new oven.

Do you use an oven thermometer? If so, how accurate is your oven?

Update: It occurred to me that I hadn't actually reviewed the device above. So, here is my review: It is very easy to use right out of the box. The thermometer allows you to use it as a timer and monitor (with a built-in alarm) when the oven temperature is not at your prescribed baking temperature. The only drawback is the overly long cable from the oven probe to the display piece. However, there's a nice, strong magnet on the rear of the thermometer, so you can place it where you wish on your oven or other metal surface. Finally, with all the nice features this device has, along with its low price, I recommend it with 4.5 stars out of 5.