Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Don't miss these articles

Today's New York Times restaurant article is fantastic! See: You May Kiss the Chef’s Napkin Ring By FRANK BRUNI, who summarizes the worst behavior of New York's celebrichefs. I can't imagine why anyone would put up with the kind of treatment he describes, much less pay hundreds of dollars for the treatment.

On a more serious note: the L.A.Times has an article about how global warming is beginning to change the capabilities of wine-growing regions in California and Europe. The article begins: "Imagine a world in which the best sparkling wines come from Surrey in southern England, not Champagne. A world where Monterey Bay is home to California's best Cabernet Sauvignons and Sweden produces world-class Rieslings." See Global warming altering wine map by Corie Brown.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Muhamarra is a Turkish appetizer spread made from walnuts and red peppers. I consider it to be a nice alternate for hummus and baba ganoush: it's vegan, goes with pita, crackers, or crisp vegetables, and has a really nice flavor.

Muhamarra Recipe
2 to 3 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and cut in strips
or a 12 oz jar roasted red peppers
2/3 cup walnuts
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup matzo meal or bread crumbs
1/4 cup olive oil
1.5 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (to taste)
2 teaspoons pomegranate syrup, concentrate, or “molasses”
(Lebanese brand: Cortas Concentrated Pomegranate Juice)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt to taste

Blend ingredients in a food processor, starting with walnuts & crumbs, then other ingredients. The mixture should be “brick red” and grainy in texture. Chill mixture. Stir before serving. You can garnish it with roasted red pepper strips.

Serve with pita toast. Cut thin pita in wedges, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with za’atar*, and brown in oven for a few minutes.

* A note on za'atar, also spelled zatar: this Middle Eastern spice blend is based on an herb called either hyssop or zatar. This wild plant grows in Israel and Lebanon, and probably elsewhere in the Mediterranean region. The blend also contains sesame seeds and other herbs, and has some resemblance to thyme. If you have eaten Middle Eastern food, you will recognize the flavor. It's also good on plain yogurt (with salt), on hummus, and as noted, on pita brushed with olive oil and toasted.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Exotic Nutrition

The BBC Online today published a pictorial treatment of a nutritious food -- locusts. To eat locusts may shock non-desert dwellers. But I remember this: the Biblical record suggests that locusts have been eaten for millenia.

SEE: The locust eaters: Pictures of how 'desert shrimps' make it from the field to the table. Photo at left is a sample.

The people interviewed for this article dip deep-fried locusts in hot, salty chili sauce and really enjoy the taste, which they compare to shrimp. The article describes how men go into the desert at night to catch basketfuls of locusts, and sell them to market women who cook them for their customers. It's very fascinating.

Quote from a locust hunter: "I mean, yes, the locusts are eating up our crops, but we are also eating them up and making money to boot. So, both man and locust are losers, but I think they are worse off because we are eating them. I guess you could say one bad turn deserves another."

A book I read, Arabian Sands by W.Thesiger, (Armchair travel to Arabian Sands) discussed the migration of locusts -- his original impetus for travel to the Empty Quarter of Arabia was to learn more about locust migrations.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Cauliflower Dimension

Here's a wonderful excerpt from an article on cauliflower:
... the Romanesco cauliflower is an heirloom and isn't to be confused with green cauliflower, or broccoflower, which is a cross between a broccoli and a cauliflower. Romanesco is astonishing in appearance, as much for its composition as for its color. Lime-green in hue, a head (or curd) of Romanesco is a near-perfect example of naturally occurring fractal: a fragmented geometric shape composed of smaller parts that are copies of the whole. The cauliflower resembles an M.C. Escher print more than something you'd find naturally occurring in your vegetable garden.

"The guys at Caltech come down and study them," says Alex Weiser of Weiser Family Farms, in whose farmers market stands you'll find all three varieties of cauliflower. "Something about the Mandelbrot theory." But you don't need a degree in mathematics to cook them. Whether they're fully grown or beautiful babies, Weiser prefers his cauliflower roasted, with just a little sea salt and olive oil splashed on before they're put in a hot oven.
This is from the article A brilliant comeback in the L.A. Times, published January 10. I Image-googled "Romanesco cauliflower" and found dozens of photos of this amazing fractal vegetable -- which I have also seen in stores. Here's an example of a photo I found --

On the whole "A Brillilant Comeback" was a very interesting article with lots of recipes as well as historical information about cauliflower. This vegetable, I learned, had its origin "in the Far East and [was] carried by Arab traders to the Mediterranean, it was then brought to England by Flemish weavers in the mid-1600s and later became the rage of the French court."

I gave my favorite cauliflower recipe in an earlier post: "Cauliflower Soup"