Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Eggs

Alice, Delia, Miriam



Alice, Delia, Miriam

Alice, Mae, Delia, Norbert (the Dragon), Miriam

Just before we ate them for breakfast

Friday, March 22, 2013

Not just crab cakes

Baltimore's inner harbor is impressive, and home to a variety of dining places. So yes, I did eat crab cakes for dinner last night at an old-time restaurant called Phillips Seafood, which has been in that neighborhood for over 30 years, though mostly in another location. Now it's next to the really cool Barnes and Noble that occupies a former power plant, and incorporates all sorts of chimneys and other mechanical leftovers.

The inner harbor used to be unsightly and industrial, before becoming a tourist attraction full of shopping malls with not only seafood but also lots of chain restaurants. Once upon a time, the McCormick's spice factory was right on the harbor: just where our hotel now stands. I found the photo at right on the McCormick website, to try to picture how much the harbor has changed. I had always heard that the aromas of spices sometimes flooded the harbor area, though the aromas of many other industrial processes competed in a not so nice way.

In the shopping mall that now stands in front of the hotel (where the shipping buildings stood in the old photo) there's now a McCormick spice store with a selection of spices from their various divisions in the US and internationally. This includes Zatarains New Orleans spices, Old Bay spices, and a number of others. They even have smell-o-vision; that is, a game where the aroma of various spices is presented as a multiple-choice challenge. Since they also fill the air of the shop with cinnamon (as sort of a memorial to the old factory) it's hard to pick out the challenging smells. I got 3 out of 4.

During the afternoon, I spent some time at the Baltimore museum, where there were a couple of recent works depicting food, or at least using images of food to make some sort of statement. I also ate fried clams in their restaurant. Full Baltimore experience.

Wade Guyton and Kelley Walker Inkjet Print on Drywall, untitled, 2011

Rachel Harrison Inkjet Prints, also untitled, 2008

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Continuing with "Jerusalem: the Cookbook"

Ottolenghi's Kofte
My record now stands at 8 recipes done from the Ottolenghi cookbook. Every one of them was worth the effort!

Earlier this week, I made his spinach salad with pita croutons, almonds, and dates. Another night I made the very simple roasted potatoes with prunes and caramel (which is clandestinely a version of tzimmes without any carrots). I served it with plain baked salmon filet.

Tonight's dinner was Ottolenghi's kofte; that is, meatballs made from ground veal and lamb and quite elaborately spiced including toasted pine nuts. The sauce on the side is made from tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and ice water. My Israeli chopped salad with tomato, cucumber, lemon, and cilantro was better in total than each of its winter ingredients.

Mujedara is the lentil dish that is a favorite of Ottolenghi -- I like the version from Hiller's Market that comes in a box, visible in the photo at upper right. Steve's, the maker, also offers great hummus and babaganoush. Maybe I'll try the recipe for Ottolenghi's mujedara some day.

Monday, March 04, 2013

A New Look at Canned Goods

From Harold McGee, "Age Your Canned Goods," a very eccentric article about the way that the flavor of canned goods changes as they age: not always for the worse. In fact, he cites a number of experiments where people liked older canned goods better than more recent ones. Aged canned tuna! Aged canned sardines! Even Spam! His subtitle summarizes this view: "Why I now think of best-by dates as maybe-getting-interesting-by dates."

Mc Gee writes:
"As far as I can tell, European connoisseurship in canned goods goes back about a hundred years. It was well established by 1924, when James H. Collins compiled The Story of Canned Foods. Collins noted that while the American industry—which started in the 1820s and took off during the Civil War—focused on mechanization and making locally and seasonally abundant seafood and vegetables more widely available, the European industry continued to rely on handwork and produced luxury goods for the well-off, who would age their canned sardines for several years like wine. Today, Rödel and Connetable, both more than 150 years old, are among the sardine makers that mark select cans with the fishing year and note that the contents 'are already very good, but like grand cru wines, improve with age' for up to 10 years.
"But the appreciation of can-aged foods wasn’t unknown in the United States. Collins recounts an informal taste test conducted by a New York grocer who rounded up old cans from a number of warehouses, put on a luncheon in which he served their contents side by side with those from new cans, and asked his guests to choose which version they preferred. Among the test foods were fourteen-year-old pea soup and beef stew, and twelve-year-old corned beef and pigs’ feet. The guests preferred the old cans 'by an overwhelming majority.'"
McGee, of course, always explores the chemical and mechanical details of his subject matter, so the details in the article are absolutely fascinating!