Friday, March 30, 2007

Fer Food Friday

Can someone say "jelly beans"?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

La Tartine Gourmande

One of my favorite food blog reads is La Tartine Gourmande. Bea always has such fabulous photographs-which to me is the heart of a blog.

Today she blew me away with a post about Australia's forgotten island Tasmania. Bea is from Boston and has recently been on vacation to New Zealand. Now-I have had New Zealand on my places to go list... but after reading her travels these last few weeks I need to buy my ticket immediately! On her way returning home she goes to Tasmania. All I can to say is "wow" what a place.

Check out her Tasmania post here. Thanks Bea!


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Verdict is In....

There is nary a phrase in the English lexicon more terrifying than "jury duty". Today I spent the day in LA's downtown courthouse. I wasn't sure what to expect. I left the house before sunup, drove 17 miles to reach the juror's parking garage. It was so early in the morning I didn't eat before I left the house. Once I was standing in line outside the courthouse I was wishing I had snatched a bite before sliding into the dark and early Monday morning.

Jury duty is one of those things that everyone dreads. I know I did. I hated getting up in the morning. But-the thing that really gets me, is how out of control you are. You are at the mercy of the court. There is no getting out of it. You must serve and you must starve while you do it.

Once I was inside the courthouse, I noticed a "snack shack" outside the juror's room. The coffee was nothing more than brown water. All of the buns or muffins looked like they had been popped out of a comic book. They were cartoons on a rack, in colors brighter than day and in forms that can never be equated to food unless Fred Flintstone is serving or maybe Scooby has offered you a snack. I knew then I was in trouble and dreaded the next course.... lunch.

I waited in the juror's room until I was called to be on a panel. The next two weeks of my life hung in the balance. I was stressed. I still had a glimmer of hope that lunch may be my golden ticket. A place to disappear for an hour, in hope of finding a new adventure... the 9th floor cafeteria.

Can you say prison food? I am one of those people that love "mom and pop" places. I love relaxed, home away from home atmospheres. Eating establishments don't need to be perfect. I have never minded a little rough around the edges. This place made me feel like I had just walked into the cafeteria on D-Block. It was that blue color that all governmental buildings have somewhere, painted down their long corridors or in this case, their cafeteria. I was surprised to see the long, galley style lines, full of yellow food. People lined up on two sides waiting their turn for the long stainless steel spoon to plop their yellow of choice down on their plate. As I was desiring something other than yellow today, I sought out a small romaine leaf salad in a Styrofoam bowl with slices of cucumber and a radish on top. There weren't many appetizing romaine leaves left so I picked out what looked best (see picture above).

What a day. I was starving once I arrived back home. I plan to make myself a delicious meal tonight and somehow recover from my day in court. If I had been chosen for the jury and had to give the food my verdict, the verdict would be death by firing squad.


p.s. Forgive the horrible photography....I didn't have my camera with me as I didn't think I could take it into the courthouse! Photo via cell phone.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Three Minute Smile

Can I let you in on a little secret? I have something you can make in three minutes that will put a huge smile on your face. Three minutes that is all it will take. THREE minutes....T-H-R-E-E.

o.k. are you ready? (Click)"tick.tick.tick.tick...."

Take a stick of room temperature butter. I like to use Tillamook which comes in a 1/2 cup stick. Place the unwrapped butter in a bowl, add 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon and 2 Tablespoons honey. Hand whip the mixture until well blended. Spread honey butter on bread of choice. Eat.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Can I Freeze That?

Fresh food is what I like best. I often will freeze meat and forget that I even have it in the freezer! Recently I was reading a new blog called Cooking For One. What a great idea for a blog! Anyway-the blog had a post about what foods can be frozen and what foods cannot. Their post links you to the National Center For Home Food Preservation's website. They offer a food list that notes the best way to freeze items. There were food items listed that I have never thought to freeze. Check it out.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Confession of a Salad Maker

The other day I realized that I buy one salad dressing and one salad dressing only. It is the Newman's Vinaigrette. It is pretty good but I always think to myself I should make my own dressing. There is just no comparison to a freshly dressed salad. The fresh herbs and ingredients gently tossed with the greens have your mouth watering before any food touches your lip.

I hate to admit it but I have thought about making my own dressings for years. I have dabbled here and there but I have never weaned myself completely off the store bought brands. I started my effort to try making different dressing varieties to find which one will become my own stand by. My thought is this: I will try many recipes, experiment with different ingredients and hopefully find one that I make part of my everyday salad life.

I confess (and find it pathetic) that I even thought of myself as a good salad maker. After all of these years of cooking, how can I claim this if I have yet to make my own dressing?!

I have started working on trying different dressing recipes. The first one I have been experimenting with is a cilantro and lime dressing. I wanted a chunkier, "thicker" dressing that I could use on a tomato and avocado salad. Sometimes I don't want a huge salad. I like to cut a few vegetables up I have on hand and toss them with a dressing. Avocados, tomatoes and purple onion seem to be one of my favorite "throw it together" combinations. So here it is:

Sliced Avocado and Cherry Tomatoes with a Cilantro,
Caper and Lime Dressing

1 Clove Garlic, Chopped
1 1/2 Teaspoons Whole Grain Mustard
1 Lime (grated rind and juice)
1 Tablespoon White Wine Vinegar
4 Tablespoons olive Oil (extra virgin)
1 Teaspoon Capers
3 Tablespoons Fresh Cilantro, Chopped
Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
1 Large Avocado, Sliced
6-8 Large Cherry Tomatoes, Sliced
1 Small Purple Onion, Sliced

Place the chopped garlic, mustard, lime rind, lime juice and vinegar in a bowl. Combine the ingredients together with a large spoon. Whisk in the oil. Add in the capers and cilantro. Season with black pepper to taste. Toss in the sliced avocado, diced tomatoes and the sliced onion. It makes about two dinner servings. If you are using this salad as a side to another dish it may serve four. I like to eat this salad with a slice of crusty bread or a whole wheat cracker.


Monday, March 19, 2007

The Nature of Pasta

Have you ever thought about all of the different pasta shapes there are in the world? There are hundreds! Here are just a few:

Penne, Orzo, Riccioli, Rigatoni, Cannelloni, Tortellini, Casarecce, Farfalle, Fusilli, Pappardelle, Reginette, Lumaconi, Orsetti, Ditaloni, Farfalline, Grattugiata, Midolline, Stelline, Ravioli, Lasagna, Tagliatelle, Tagliatelline or Fettuccine...

I have always chosen pasta according to the shape of it, the look I wanted or what the recipe requires. Here are some interesting findings in choosing the right shaped pasta for a sauce:

Ribbon Pastas:(fettuccine, linguine, tagliatelle, spaghetti) work well with thin sauces. If the sauce is chunky, it is more difficult to eat on a ribbon pasta due to the need to roll the pasta onto a fork.

Open,Flat shapes:(bowties, etc) are good for chunkier sauces.

Scoop Shapes:(shells, cavatelli, etc) are used where the sauce needs to get inside the shape in order to taste the pasta and sauce in one bite. Thicker sauces (but not chunky) or baked pastas work well.

Closed Shapes:(penne, trenne, macaroni, etc) are good to use with heavy sauces. Baked sauces that will thicken while cooking work well. As the mixture bakes, the sauce will seep into the pasta shape where it will thicken. The final result is a "stuffed" pasta full of the sauce.

Spirals:(fusillia, radiatore, etc) are the best pasta to hold their shape. They are also great to use with chunky sauces as their shape "hook" on to the sauce pieces.

Just some things to consider when you are working with the nature of pasta!


Pasta Picture Participants:
DaVinci Angel Hair Nest; Barilla Fettuccine; Barilla Pappardelle, Whole Foods 365 Orzo

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Coffee for the Irish!

It is almost St. Patrick's Day! One thing I like to make for this holiday is an Irish Coffee.

Whenever I am in San Francisco, I always try to go to Buena Vista Cafe. They make the best Irish Coffee. Each glass is made fresh on the spot. It is fun to watch the bartender create each one. The trick is to take the time and hand whip the cream to the perfect consistency with a spoon.

A Buena Vista Irish Coffee:

Pour hot coffee into a glass about 3/4 full.

Add two sugar cubes. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Add one shot of Irish whiskey

Finish with a layer of fresh whipping cream (lightly whipped). Pour the cream over a spoon to have it layer properly onto the coffee.



Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Food Fetching

Food fetching is so personal. I find it fascinating how different we can all be in how we fetch our food. This past weekend, I saw so many people walking towards the farmers market with carts in hand or a basket full of vegetables that were just hand selected from the various vendors at the market. It made me think about how different we all are, not only with what food we chose to prepare, but how we shop.

I shop for groceries three to four days a week. I like to have food on hand at my house, but I like my food to be fresh. I am also one of those people that get a fancy for a food item and want to make it right away! I enjoy food shopping so I like to go to a variety of shops for specific needs.

I like to walk to the grocery store but I don't walk every time. I have to drive to work so I often go to the store at the end of my workday and have my car with me. It has always been important to me to have a store within walking distance. Wherever I have lived I make that a priority.

I love farmers markets. In fact, one of my biggest inspirations for Fer Food is going to the farmers market each week. I find that not only do I receive the freshest produce, but a farmers market helps me to try new things that I wouldn't see at the everyday grocery store.

How do you shop for your groceries? All at once? Every day? Do you keep frozen items for future meals or do you buy things as you need them? Are you one to take the car to the store and pack it full of goodies or do you walk and carry a few bags? Where do you shop? Do you shop local or do you go out of your way to go to the best store you can find? How much do you shop at farmers markets? Do you use the plastic bags that the market offers or do you bring your own container via a basket, cart or tote?


Monday, March 12, 2007

There is a Hummus Among Us!

I can never say the word "Hummus" without thinking or saying, "There is a Hummus among us!" Hummus is such an easy recipe. Once you make it yourself and see how easy it is, you will never go back to store bought Hummus. If you have a food processor it takes about five minutes to make.

Hummus can look pretty plain but it doesn't have to! First, I place the finished hummus into a shallow bowl and use a small spoon to scoop out the center portion of hummus. Then, I pour to olive oil into this scooped out area. This allows the olive oil to form a pool. This makes for a nice presentation but also mixes the olive oil into the hummus just right as it is eaten. I also like to dash a bit of paprika and a few pine nuts as a garnish.

Easy Hummus
4 cloves Fresh Garlic—roughly chopped (I like tons of garlic-if you don't, use only two cloves)
1/3 Cup Lemon Juice
¼ Cup Water
14 oz Can of Chickpeas
½ cup Tahini
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt

Place all of the ingredients into the food processor bowl. Press pulse 3-4 times until blended. You may need to scrape the bowl in between pulses to assure all of the ingredients are properly mixed. Garnish. Eat.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Fer Food Friday

Yes this chandelier made out of gummy bears! The chandelier artist is Ya Ya Chou. See full story here.

via Tastespotting

***Fer Food Fridays are a weekly post sharing a photo find or a special shot we recently created. We want you to share too! Please feel free to send in your funny food photos or internet finds!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I May Be Square But I'm Sweet!

Why am I so in love with sugar cubes? I find them beautiful, sweet and very independent. There is such a unique pleasure in placing one into a hot beverage. I love that they are in their own self-contained package.

Cubes are never found in restaurants anymore-only grocery stores. I have often wondered where these lovely cubes come from and who invented them.

Cubes were the sugar industry's first effort at offering mess-free individual portions. Before cubes were offered everyone used the community sugar bowl. After World War II, bagging equipment was invented and sugar makers flooded the market with sugar packets. The cube sadly took a backseat.

Sugar cubes were first reported to have been made by a Belgian in 1890. He made the first cubes by spreading dampened sugar into a large slab and sawing it into individual squares.

Today, cubes are made by passing dry granulated sugar along a special conveyor as water is sprayed onto the sugar. It water and sugar are throughly mixed as it passes along the conveyor. At this stage, the wet sugar mixture contains about 1% water. It is quite sticky. To form the cubes, moist sugar is pressed into rows of moulds that are arranged around the outside of a circular drum. As a drum rotates the wet cubes are pushed out onto a moving conveyor belt. This then moves along under a series of infrared drying lamps where the sugar cubes are dried. This is all enclosed in a kind of tunnel often called the 'drying tunnel'. When the dry cubes emerge from the end of the drying tunnel they are picked up using matching rows of rubber suction cups, and placed into boxes and cartons. There is still a tiny amount of water left in the cubes so they are left for a few days to dry thoroughly before the final wrapping takes place.

Sugar cubes are not just cubes anymore. This cool company makes sugar cubes into different shapes such as: puzzle pieces; hearts with a cutout to stand on a rim of a cup; small spheres; rocks and beautiful large crystals. It is good to know that the cube is not forgotten only reinventing itself.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Root Beer Taste Test Continues!

Fer Food loves root beer. We started a taste test of various options last month and are still continuing to try what is out there! Here is a new update to our original root beer taste test:

Bull Dog:
It reminds us of the Original Bubble Yum bubble gum. Now you might read this and say "bubble gum"?! Now it doesn't taste like actual bubble gum. The vanilla flavor is just so strong and unique in this root beer that it brought back memories of chewing bubble gum. It isn't too fizzy. It doesn't need to be.The larger root beer companies have cut corners by sweetening their root beer with corn syrup. So much so that I think we have all forgotten what actual sugar tastes like! In our adventures of taste testing, we have found that a mark of a good root beer is it being sweetened with cane sugar and not corn syrup. This being said, Bull Dog is sweetened with cane sugar and it leaves you with a nice clean finish. It is not too sweet and there are alot of nice layers in there to explore! There is a strong vanilla push. The honey is very sudtle and almost undetectable. We think the honey gives it some gravity without it being syrupy. We liked it. Thanks Todd for the suggestion!

Hank's Gourmet Root Beer: Sweetened with cane sugar, this root beer has a strong cherry flavor with woody overtones. It is slightly more fizzy than Bull Dog. It is unique and a nice option.

Sparky's Fresh Draft Root Beer: This is the only one of the root beers we have tried that we didn't finish. We found that it had a medicinal and almost brackish flavor. It is very herbal. Have you ever had any of the herbal tonics? This root beer remind me of a herbal-remedy tonic. It is sweetened with pure cane sugar. It was heavier on the fizz than the two options mentioned above. This only made me think of Alka-Seltzer Cold Medicine. We take a pass on this one. Poor Sparky.

**More root beer reviews to come: Fitz's, Dog N Suds, Barq's and Boylans. Any more suggestions? We would love to hear about them!


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I Yam What I Yam...

When I was a child I thought the only way to eat a yam was with marshmallows and lots of brown sugar. I dreaded this dish passed at Thanksgiving. That casserole dish of orange whipped goo.

I love baked sweet potatoes and have often wondered about the different varieties. Is a yam different than a sweet potato?

There is no botanical difference between a "yam" and a "sweet potato". In fact, they are both sweet potatoes. "Yams" are simply a type of sweet potato and were given that name to distinguish them from other types of "sweet potatoes".

There are three features that distinguish "yams" from other sweet potatoes: its skin color, flesh color and moisture content of the potato.

Here are some general characteristics of each:

Sweet Potatoes

Skin: Sweet potatoes are usually lighter in color than yams. Color ranges from light yellow or tan. The exception to this rule is the Japanese sweet potato, which has a deep purple skin, but meets the other characteristics of sweet potatoes.

Flesh color: Light yellow to pale orange.

Moisture: Drier than a "yam" and somewhat sweeter.


Skin: Deep red, purplish or dark copper tone.

Flesh color: Deep or vivid orange.

Moisture: Quite moist; almost "mushy". Not as sweet as sweet potatoes.

For a taste test, I picked up three different varieties at the market(listed in photo order top to bottom): "Kotobuki" (or Japanese Sweet Potato), a Jersey (or plain sweet potato) and a Garnet (a "Sweet Yam").

I found the Japanese variety more dry than a traditional sweet potato. The flesh is a light colored and more dense than a traditional sweet potato.

The "Jersey" is my favorite variety and also the classic sweet yam everyone knows of as a sweet potato. This is the variety that is longer and skinner that the other varieties that have the same traditional orange on the inside. It is a moist and soft potato. I love this variety cooked as fries or plain. Delicious and nutritious.

The "Garnet" was good. It is more like a regular potato than a sweet one. It has a light skin with a light yellow inside. If you are craving a sweet potato than this one will disappoint. If you want to try a different variety, this one is delicious. I think it would be a great alternate to use for making mashed potatoes. The flavor reminds me of spaghetti squash. Not as sweet as the squash but similar nonetheless.


Monday, March 05, 2007

All That and a Bag of Chips

I was inspired when I read an easy, no deep-fry required potato chip recipe on Bakingsheet's blog. This chip recipe only requires a microwave. The chips are more healthy than the deep fried chips we all know and love. It sounded too good to be true but I found that this recipe works. Homemade potato chips in minutes.

The original recipe I was working off suggested using baking potatoes or russet potatoes. I thought I would change up the recipe a bit and use multi-colored heirloom potatoes. I liked the notion of using this type of potato due to its variation in color and their smaller scale.

I made some chips using the russet potatoes and some with the heirlooms just to see the differences in taste and textures. I found that I do like the taste of the heirloom potato chips over that of the russet potatoes. I love the small scale of the heirloom chips and the beauty of the color variations.

Next, I decided that I wanted to try to soak the potatoes in vinegar to make my own version of "sea salt and vinegar chips". I found that if I soaked sliced potatoes in vinegar and placed them in the fridge for at least an hour or two the chips had a nice vinegar taste. I tried to soak the sliced potato without refrigeration but the vinegar flavor was better with a longer soaking time and at a colder temperature.

There are a few tricks in making them crispy. The slices of potato need to be extra thin. Think paper!
Use a mandoline if you have one. The thicker the chips, the more likely they will be chewy and not the crispy texture that is desired. Also-the chips all need to be the same thickness. I noticed that when some of the chips were slightly thicker than others, it was more difficult to have the chips cook evenly. If some chips were thicker and required more cooking time, the thinner chips needed to be rescued early so they didn't burn.

I played with slicing the potatoes lengthwise and using the small rounds of their widths. It was fun to change it up and have the different shapes and sizes in the finished bag.

I went to the farmer's market over the weekend. Fresh dill was in abundance. I thought that it would make a nice addition for the chips. So-I added a few sprigs to the vinegar soak before I placed the mixture into the fridge.

Sea Salt with Fresh Dill and Vinegar Microwave Chips

Scrub potatoes. I prefer to leave the skins on. Slice potatoes paper thin trying to keep the slices even and consistent. Place the slices in a large bowl. Coat the slices with vinegar until all of the slices are covered. Add a few sprigs of fresh dill. Cover mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours.

Use olive oil to coat a glass baking dish. Place potato slices in a single layer. Add sea salt evenly over the potatoes. Lightly sprinkle dill on top as the final seasoned layer. Place dish into microwave.

The chips will take between 4-7 minutes depending on the power of your microwave and the thickness of the chips. Watch the first batches closely to learn how your microwave responds. Remove the chips as soon as they are brown and crisp. Be careful as the glass pan does heat up. Repeat proceedure until you have the size bag of chips you desire.

I used about a dozen heirloom potatoes and about four cooking batches later I had enough chips for three people. The downside of using the small heirlooms is it will take alot more potatoes to get a good size bag of chips.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

New Fun Food Finds

Here are some cool things I have found recently.

Chocolate bubble wrap?

Now we can literally eat, drink and sleep food!

Check out these cakes.

Pizza delivery in a whole new way.

Herb infused vodka? I have to try it.

Bacon. Sweet bacon. Check out this blog that has shows an alarm clock that will wake you up with the sweet smell guessed it!

Your name on toast for charity.
I wish I thought of this idea! Fer Food wants to be on toast!