Serious Eats: Cupcake Wars: Food Network's New Cupcake Competition Show Premieres Tonight

Note: Our summer intern Leah Douglas spends most of her time eating and learning about food culture and policy. And thinking about cupcakes! —The Mgmt.


Nice guns. [Photograph: Food Network]

Have you ever looked at a small, beautiful cupcake and thought, "The preparation of this cupcake was not nearly combative enough for me!!" Well, then Food Network has the show for you. Tonight a new season of Cupcake Wars premieres. The reality show allows professional bakers to battle it out for a chance to showcase their cupcakes at a high-profile event. On Sunday, a sneak peek episode premiered—here's the basic run-down.

The Competition

Four bakers enter Round One, with hopeful expressions and sous chefs waiting at their baking stations. The first challenge in Sunday's episode was a taste challenge. The bakers were presented with two tables, one laden with sweet ingredients, the other with savory. They had 45 minutes to create a cupcake using one ingredient from each table. In this round, Hollis Wilder of Sweet! bakery in Orlando, Florida, made the risky decision to serve a salmon-lemon cupcake with caper frosting. Somehow, this cupcake was delicious and the judges put her in the lead.

Hmm. I'll believe that one when I taste it.

In Round Two, the bakers whipped up three additional cupcake flavors, in 75 minutes. They chose from among the best-sellers at their bakeries, and presented to the judges. I was impressed that all the bakers were even able to pull off such a feat. Making one batch of cupcakes alone takes me about an hour!


[Photograph: Food Network]

The judges tasted each cupcake carefully and discussed the merits and failings of each cake base, frosting texture, and flavor combination in exacting detail. According to my calculations, the judges got to sample 13 different cupcakes during this show. It's a hard job, but someone's gotta take the hit, I suppose.

After each round, one baker is eliminated. So going into Round Three, only two bakers remained. They had to prepare a whopping 1,000 cupcakes, consisting of the four flavors from the prior two rounds, in a mere 2 hours. They were provided with four additional sous chefs to help them pull off this Herculean task. They also had to design a presentation showpiece for the celebrity event, to display all the hundreds of diminutive cakes. (They got a carpenter to help them with that.)

After much drama, yelling, pastry-dropping, and commercial breaks, the two bakers were done. A winner was chosen, and the event appeared to be a rousing success.

Congratulations to Hollis Wilder and her salmon-lemon cupcake. She thought outside the box, made beautiful cupcakes, and in the end made a more exciting presentation piece than her competitor.

The Judges


Candace Nelson at Sprinkles Cupcakes bakery. [Photograph: Sprinkles Bakery]

There are two regular judges on this show. Florian Bellanger is head chef and co-owner of Mad-Mac, a madeleines and macarons distributor to retail shops across the country. Previously, he trained under Pierre Herme, and later worked as pastry chef at Le Bernadin.

Candace Nelson is founder and owner of Sprinkles Cupcakes, often touted as the world's first cupcake bakery (they now have eight branches and are expanding rapidly). I participated in an phone interview with Candace to learn more about her approach to this new show, and to her successful business.


Classic Sprinkles cupcakes. [Photograph: Sprinkles Bakery]

What is Candace looking for in a contestant? Well, judging by the salmon cupcake, they're looking for inventiveness. "If you make a simple cupcake and you don't go outside of your comfort zone, and that cupcake tastes amazing, you're gonna get great points from the judges. But what was really amazing to see when people stepped outside of that comfort zone and tackled an ingredient like smoked salmon, like Hollis did last night, and made it just fly." As she later put it, the successful risk-takers can "make believers out of the judges."

Alright, so a savory cupcake sounds interesting—but it also sounds a lot like a muffin. Candace spells out this crucial difference between cupcake and muffin: "I think a cupcake is all about the texture, and the moistness, and the lightness. And then of course you gotta have the frosting. Muffins don't have frosting!" Good point. A naked cupcake is no fun.

She went on to talk more about why Cupcake Wars is a fun and exciting project for her, and the cupcake industry. "I think it's a window into the world of cupcakes... what's funny is, when my husband and I opened Sprinkles five years ago, people thought we were completely insane. And the reality is, cupcakes are a legitimate industry right now. I think the cupcake's appeal is really universal, so I think the show's appeal will be really universal."

So what's in the future for Candace? "Right now, we're really focused on expanding our locations. We're opening five new locations in the next six or seven months, we're pretty busy doing that." And what about expanding the product line, beyond just cupcakes? Candace doesn't have a concrete plan, "but I wouldn't rule out the possibility of going in to other dessert items in the future."

To check out Cupcake Wars, tune in on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET, on the Food Network.

Serious Eats: Video: What Do Soccer Players Eat? England's Team Chef Lays It Out

If you enjoyed Heston Blumenthal talking about how the scent of lavender might improve performance earlier today, here's another World Cup–related soccer video for you. This one's a little less hypothetical and more just-the-facts-ma'am. Here, team chef Tim De'Ath details what the English footballers eat.

There's an 18 chef team taking care of the English soccer crew, with 7 to 8 chefs in the kitchen at any point. The day's regimen consists of breakfast, lunch, an afternoon snack, an evening meal, and an evening snack. All meals and snacks are compulsory, De'Ath says, to get the players out of their rooms and keep them social.

  • Lunchtime: carbs and white meats
  • Afternoon: proteins
  • Afternoon snack: low-fat hot chocolates, protein cakes, sushi
  • Evening: red meats, so their bodies can digest it as they sleep
  • Lots of carbs—2 or 3 different pastas every day (not creamy sauces, though, tomato sauce or bolognese, mostly)

Related: Heston Blumenthal on the Science of the Soccer Diet »

Slashfood: Belle and the Bees Breakfast Cheese - Cheese Course


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Photo: Belle Chevre

Looking for an enticing alternative to cream cheese? Try the Belle and the Bees Breakfast Cheese from Fromagerie Belle Chèvre in Elkmont, Ala. Its lusciously creamy, fluffy texture and its tangy, floral and fruity flavor make this cheese spread taste like rich goat's milk ice cream drizzled with honey. And, the cheese's mild approachable taste and smooth consistency mean that it's ideal for spreading on all sorts of breads, including bagels. To find out more about the tanginess and sweetness of this cheese spread, we spoke to Tasia Malakasis, owner of Belle Chèvre.

The addition of tupelo honey from a Savannah beekeeper gives this cheese a delicate taste of rosewater and a distinct pear-like aroma. The combination is similar to the experience of tasting tangy yogurt with syrupy honey or to that of eating sliced pears with fresh goat cheese. "I like to play with the cheese to enhance the sweetness," says Malakasis. Thanks to her mixing of flavors, the spread has just the right balance of sweet and tangy.

More on the Belle and the Bees Breakfast Cheese after the jump.

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Serious Eats: Dinner Tonight: Thick-Cut Pork Chops with Apples and Onion

From Recipes


[Photograph: Blake Royer]

I'm in love with thick-cut pork chops, which, if you cook them well, have the meaty satisfaction of a good steak. You can sear the heck out of them to get a great crust, while they remain juicy inside. They also happen to be a heck of a lot cheaper, but unlike a good steak, they need a little more dolling up than plain-old salt and pepper.

This recipe, adapted from the stupendous cookbook Mad Hungry, pairs the pork with the classic flavors of apple and onion in a quick-to-prepare pan sauce that becomes a braising liquid to finish cooking the pork. Beer, wine, cider, or chicken broth are all options to base the sauce around, so I went with half beer and half chicken stock. The beer added a touch of bitterness against the sweet onion and apple. The resulting sauce is remarkably rich, making full use of the porky pan bits left after searing. This is really top-notch comfort food, enough to erase a thousand memories of the dry, thin pork chops of my childhood.

Thick-Cut Pork Chops with Apples and Onion

- serves 4 -

Adapted from Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn.


4 bone-in thick-cut pork chops
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large white onion, sliced
2 to 3 apples, cored and sliced, about 3 cups
1 cup beer, white wine, cider, or chicken broth


1. Trim any excess fat from the chops and season liberally with salt and pepper. In a very large, heavy skillet (large enough to hold the chops with room to spare, preferably cast iron), heat the oil over high heat. Once it is shimmering and very hot, add the chops carefully and cook undisturbed for a few minutes for a good sear, about 5 minutes. Turn and sear the other side, then remove the chops to a plate.

2. Turn the heat to medium-low and swirl in the butter, then add the apple and onions. Cook until the onion is golden and the apple is softened, 8-10 minutes, then deglaze the pan with the beer or other liquid. Return the chops to the pan and cook, turning occasionally and covering with the sauce, for an additional 5-10 minutes, until the chops are done.

3. If desired, remove the chops and turn the heat to high to thicken the sauce. Serve the chops with the sauce draped over them.

About the author: Blake Royer founded The Paupered Chef with Nick Kindelsperger, where he writes about food and occasional travels. After a year in Estonia, he's now living in Chicago.

Serious Eats: Gluten-Free Tuesday: Quick-Pickled Sea Beans

From Recipes


[Photograph: Shauna James Ahern]

Before I went gluten-free, about the only beans I had ever eaten were green beans (mostly from a can with a happy large guy on it), refried beans out of a pop-top can, and canned beans in soups and tacos made with those indestructo hard shells that came nestled against each other in a package. (Of course, they were entirely destructible. Out of 12 in a box, only two or three emerged from the shadows intact.) I knew ditties about beans as a musical fruit, I remembered the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, and I knew that some beans are white and some are black.

I had never eaten a fava bean. I had never grown a bean from seed. And I had never even heard of a sea bean.

More formally known as samphire or salicornica, sea beans are also called glasswort, sea asparagus, sea greens, and sea pickle. (The name seems to depend on which part of the U.S. you are in.) Call them whatever you want. I call sea beans one of my favorite vegetables of late summer. I look forward to that first salty bite every year.

Found in marshes and at the place where a river meets the sea, sea beans are becoming more visible in cities because of foragers at farmers' markets. They grow stick straight toward the sky, with one slender stalk and tiny lateral branches. (Think a 3-inch-tall Christmas tree without any needles.) You might miss them if you didn't know how good they are. They're humble. And wonderful.

Have you ever spent an entire day at the beach, jumping the waves, eating peaches with sand on your hands, sitting in the sun just long enough to dry off, then jumping back into the ocean? Ever licked your skin at the end of that day? That's what a sea bean tastes like.

Because they are quite salty, sea beans don't work well with any foods that are assertively salty as well. You can reduce the saltiness of sea beans by blanching them. However, since that kiss of salt is part of the essential nature of sea beans, I like to leave them as they are. Eaten in salads or tossed into scrambled eggs at the last moment, sea beans are best raw or just lightly cooked. Apply heat for too long and they turn a little fishy. (However, paired with a fillet of wild Alaska salmon, this is not a bad thing.)

Sea beans get pickled in our house as soon as we walk into the kitchen with them in our hands. Since you want to eat sea beans the day they are picked (or as soon after as possible), pickling is a great way to keep that taste around. After all, as much as you might like them, you probably don't want to eat 2 pounds of sea beans in one day. (Well, unless you're going for that salt lick feeling.) Pickling keeps them going strong for at least a week.

Just enough time for you to get the jones to go back to the beach for more sea beans.

Quick-Pickled Sea Beans


1 pound fresh sea beans
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 garlic cloves
1 bay leaf


Put the sea beans into jars, not stuffed but comfortably full.

2. Bring the water, vinegar, salt, sugar, garlic, and bay leaf to a boil in a large pot. Pour the liquid into the jars and put on the lids. Let sit in the refrigerator overnight before eating.

Good for 1 week.

About the author: Shauna James Ahern (aka Gluten-Free Girl) writes one of the most popular gluten-free cooking blogs out there and has a book of the same name.

Slashfood: Controversy Swirls After Mold Found in Capri Sun


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After a Florida woman found a disgusting blob of mold in a pouch of Capri Sun juice, Kraft Foods has taken to Facebook to defend itself and its product, Chicago Breaking Business reported.

Melissa Wiegand Brown of Homestead, Fla., found the mold in her drink and posted photos of the "oval, skin-like substance" on Facebook. The pictures went viral.

On Friday, Kraft Foods responded to the blogosphere with a section devoted to the Capri Sun controversy on its Facebook page.

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Slashfood: South African Wines - Wine of the Week


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South Africa is all anyone's talking about right now because of its role as host to the FIFA World Cup matches.

It's also an up-and-coming wine region. While wine has reportedly been made there since the mid-1600s, South Africa's wine-making roots have since grown to include 60 appellations. The largest of those -- all near Cape Town -- are Stellenbosch, Paarl and Worcester.

South Africa is among the top-ten wine-producing countries in the world. And more and more bottles are making their way to the United States, many of them Fair Trade certified, allowing you to drink with a conscience. Bottles from South Africa that are imported by Minneapolis-based Etica Fair Trade, for instance, have proven to be quite good over the past few years.

After the jump, find five South African wines worth tracking down.

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Serious Eats: Barbecue, Defined by 16 Pitmasters

VIEW SLIDESHOW: Barbecue, Defined by 16 Pitmasters

Halfway into the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party's panel on South Carolina barbecue on Sunday afternoon, an audience member raised his hand and asked the panelists to name the best barbecue restaurant in New York City.

"It's an exhibition, not a competition. It's diversity. The best barbecue is whatever I'm eating at the time," answered John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance and one of three literary heavyweights sitting at that checkered table. He warmly invited the panel and the audience to set aside myth and hype and talk instead about the widespread roots of good food.

"It was amazing to discover the range of barbecue," joined journalist Lolis Eric Elie, referring to his experiences in researching the quintessential barbecue road trip book, Smokestack Lightning. In waxing academic over the sauce stylings of South Carolina, the reverse migration of black Americans into the South and the idea of a national food, the panel—Eli, Edge, and two others, author and editor Jack Hitt and South Carolina pit master Rodney Scott—communicated a deep respect for barbecue's regional underpinnings.


Whole hog sandwich from The Pit

Regional representation was an essential element of the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party and this year, pitmasters from 11 states gather to offer just as many glimpses into what defines barbecue on their home turf. From Ed Mitchell's celebrity-caliber whole hog chopped pork sandwich to Kenny Callaghan's rich and powerful smoked beef rib, the food served to thousands during this event challenged New Yorkers in the most savory way possible to trade in our hungry quest for "the best" for something closer to home.

Thanks to the ever-growing popularity of traditional foods in the United States, many serious eaters know that America has four heralded barbecue "capitals": Memphis, Kansas City, North Carolina (yes, the entire state) and central Texas. Yet, as showcased by the Block Party's invitations to Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi, even this breakdown of regional roots can be overly simplistic.

"Barbecue varies county by county within a single state," affirmed Edge with a nod to South Carolina, which is home not only to a regional specialty called hash but also to three geographically separated strains of barbecue sauce: vinegar, mustard and tomato (hardcore 'cue enthusiasts might argue that "heavy tomato" should be considered to be a fourth strain).


Pulled pork shoulder from Big Bob Gibson

The Carolinas are not alone when it comes to local variations of barbecue. The beef brisket of Texas Hill Country is legendary, but traditional barbacoa and various types of pork barbecue are just as much a part of Texas' barbecue heritage. The world-championship pork ribs served by John Wheeler of Rack and Soul are almost the opposite, in texture and flavor, of the world-championship pork ribs served by Mike Mills of 17th St. Bar and Grill; yet, both renderings of an American icon are distinct and delicious.

And while the pulled pork shoulder of Lexington, North Carolina has surely changed my perception of pulled pork for life, the shoulder cooked by Chris Lilly of Decatur, Alabama's Big Bob Gibson yielded the single best bite of pork I ate during my weekend at Madison Square Park.


Mutton barbecue from the Moonlite BBQ Inn

The Block Party's finest reflection of barbecue's regional breadth—and my favorite of the 12 meals I shared with Serious Eats' Josh Bousel last weekend—was Moonlite BBQ's mutton, a form of 'cue confined to Davis County in Kentucky. Sweet and spicy with a softly shredded texture and the complex flavor of lamb, this sandwich was literally barbecue of a different breed. Small slices of pickle and onion were expertly included as a means of cutting through the gamy flavor of sheep meat.


[Photograph: Josh Bousel]

Pitmaster Ken Bosley also paired his mutton with several heaping spoonfuls of burgoo, an addictive stew made of mutton, beef, chicken, potato, corn, onion and tomato. Just as Brunswick stew is a beloved dish in Georgia and Virginia, burgoo is essential to the Owensboro barbecue experience.

"You get out of the Davis County area, you get 60 miles outside of Owensboro, they don't eat burgoo, they don't eat mutton," chimed Moretta Bosley, a woman who singlehandedly proves that to be a true pitmaster, one must possess a true sense of sophistication. Her explanation of burgoo crossed quickly into local favorites far and wide—not only has her family enjoyed curried mutton in New Zealand and Australia, they have also traveled Europe and the United States with attentive taste buds. One of Bosley's fondest variations of barbecue is the backyard barbecue pork chop served with German fries at the Boston Tavern in New Boston, Indiana.


Smoked hot link from Jim 'n Nick's Bar-B-Q

The stories of Moretta Bosley, along with the stories we heard while speaking with every other crew last weekend, made me feel sublimely lucky to be a part of an experience I initially thought would be just another exercise in pigging out.

As I asked every pitmaster to give me his or her definition of barbecue, one thing connected all the answers: a common appreciation for the other pitmasters' handiwork. T-shirts and caps from one crew were frequently spotted on the backs and heads another crew's members, and the differences between each booth's offerings were quick to dissolve as all celebrated the good company that makes any barbecue worth its weight in smoked meat.

"Is it becoming something that Americans are holding up, saying, 'This is who we are'?" asked John T. Edge towards the end of his panel discussion. While pontificating on this question, he highlighted that this festival had "transformed Madison Square Park into a Southern space, a hospitable space"—and in presenting America's first national food, it curated that food's many evolutions.

Read how all 16 pitmasters answered the "what is barbecue" question »

Slashfood: One More Step Toward Pesticide-Free Produce


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Photo: Corbis

Just as our thoughts are turning to farm-fresh summer produce, here comes this bit of good news: the Environmental Protection Agency has announced a ban on endosulfan, a toxic pesticide related to DDT and one of the last of its kind to remain on the market in the U.S.

The ban may have come too late for this growing season, but by next year we could all be enjoying a whole bevy of veggies that are free of endosulfan residues: cucumbers, summer squash, green beans, lettuce and tomatoes. These, according to, are some of the produce with the highest traces of endosulfan. Celery, apples, peaches and kale are also affected.

Besides those of us who thrill at the sight of big leafy green baskets of kale, farm workers are also celebrating the ban. It was their union that led the charge in challenging a decision by the federal government eight years ago that growers could still use endosulfan with some restrictions. Since then more and more scientific studies have pointed to the hazards of a chemical compound that (like its cousin DDT) has a propensity to accumulate in the bodies of humans and wildlife. Tests in lab animals have demonstrated endosulfan's toxic effects on the nervous system as well as on the kidneys, liver and male reproductive organs. (No doubt lab animals are celebrating the ban, too.)

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Kayotic Kitchen: It Is That Time Again!

Kayotic Kitchen
<a href=""><img align="left" hspace="5" width="150" src="" class="alignleft wp-post-image tfe" alt="Gouda" title="" /></a>It's that time of the year again! Time for a walk in a park that’s bathed in the golden rays of the setting sun. Life is good. Grand, even.<img src="" height="1" width="1"/>

Serious Eats: The Nasty Bits: Duck Liver

From Recipes


[Photographs: Chichi Wang]

Greenmarket farmers' markets in New York City are my favorite new place to hunt for offal. You may not think of your farmers' market as a source for nose-to-tail cuts, yet these days the meat vendors are showing up in full force. Best of all, you never know what you might find in one of their coolers.

Over the past year, I've come across cuts of offal at farmers' markets that I haven't even found at sustainable or ethnic butcher shops. Why I was surprised to see cartons of livers and hearts in the coolers at the farmers' markets, I don't know. By the time animals arrive at a butcher shop, they'll have passed through plants where some percentage of the offal is discarded in an effort to expedite the process and keep the facilities clean. The farmers who slaughter as well as butcher, on the other hand, often take the time to save the offal from their animals. Though not all farmers possess the facilities and legal certification, some do have their own abattoirs on site. Even those who do not own their own abattoirs will send their animals to be slaughtered at places where the offal can be reserved.

On a Saturday morning at the Borough Hall Greenmarket in Brooklyn, I chatted with a turkey farmer who carried bags of turkey necks. In the adjacent stand, a pastured poultry farmer sold some of the most pristine livers I'd ever seen: plump and dry, with a matte gloss on the surface. Livers that you find in your grocery store often have a slickness to their surface and a slightly rank odor. These livers, on the other hand, smelled distinctly sweet.

Pairing Duck Liver with Produce


If you've only experienced the creaminess of chicken liver, try to imagine the indulgence of duck liver. Its texture, though a far cry from foie gras, approaches the richness of something that tastes too good to be a humble cut of offal sold for a pittance. But cheap and delicious it is, and if you're strolling by the farmers' market, then you may as well pick up seasonal produce to pair with your livers. Rhubarb, with its tart flavor, cuts through the fattiness of duck liver. Cherries, which vary from tart to sweet, add more juice and sweetness to the sauce.

All livers pair well with acidic sauces, many of which are made with reductions of vinegar. Using fruit instead of vinegar adds more body and texture to the dish. Rhubarb is showing up more and more on restaurant menus as a complement to savory dishes, but given the ease of its preparation, it's also an ideal vegetable with which to experiment at home.

For an impromptu sauce to go along with my sautéed duck livers, I cut up the rhubarb and cherries and placed them into a small saucepan along with a few spoonfuls of sugar. In twenty minutes the rhubarb and cherries had broken down into a beautiful sanguine mass, akin to compote, with a flavor that puckered, then mellowed in my mouth. If you happen to have a fig or well-aged balsamic at home, you can finish the sauce with a splash of the vinegar.

Cook in Plenty of Fat

Finally, though I probably say this at least once a month, sautéing your livers on a very hot cast iron skillet is an ideal way to achieve a crispy surface while retaining a creamy interior that's barely cooked through. For duck liver, which is more delicate than calf's, I like to roughly chop the livers into 1-inch segments so that the surface of the livers do not have a chance to toughen. The livers should be cooked in plenty of butter for ultimate richness and flavor, though if you happen to have duck fat on hand, then cooking the livers in the fat will intensify the ducky flavor of the organs. Treading in a sea of red, the duck livers exude their own, fatty juices onto the plate. Liver and compote mingle; their union is thrilling and luscious.

About the author: Chichi Wang took her degree in philosophy, but decided that writing about food would be much more fun than writing about Plato. She firmly believes in all things offal, the importance of reading great books, and the necessity of three-hour meals. If she were ever to get a tattoo, it would say "Fat is flavor." Visit her blog, The Offal Cook.


Sautéed Duck Livers with Rhubarb and Cherry Sauce

- serves four as a moderately portioned but rich main course -


4 to 6 duck livers
A few tablespoons cornstarch or flour for coating the livers
1/2 teaspoon of salt, or to taste
Pepper to taste
3 tablespoons of butter or duck fat

For the sauce
1/2 pound dark red cherries, either Bing or another variety
1/2 pound rhubarb, about 4 to 5 stalks
1/4 cup sugar, or to taste
1 teaspoon fig balsamic vinegar, optional


1. To make the sauce: Rinse the cherries and rhubarb in cold water. Chop the stalks of rhubarb into 1/4-inch slices. Remove the pits from the cherries and chop into halves. Place the rhubarb and the cherries in a small saucepan, along with the sugar. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. The sauce should be like compote: fleshy and soft, with a few pieces of cherry still intact. Depending on the tartness of your cherries, you may need to add a bit more sugar. If desired, add a splash of vinegar at the end. The sauce may be made in advance and set aside.

2. Dry your livers on a towel; then cut them up into 1-inch segments and set aside.

3. Heat a cast iron skillet until it's almost smoking. Add the butter or duck fat to the pan. Dust the livers in a thin layer of cornstarch or flour to help to keep the surface perfectly dry and crisp. Place all the livers in the skillet and spread them apart to prevent steaming. Don't saute the livers just yet: let them brown for 30 to 40 seconds on the bottom, then stir around briefly for another 30 to 40 seconds and remove from the heat. Sprinkle the salt and pepper on the livers while they're browning. Total cooking time should not exceed 2 minutes.

4. Serve the livers on top of a pool of the rhubarb and cherry sauce. Do not put the sauce on top, as the smothering of the sauce will soften the livers' crispy surface.

About the author: Chichi Wang took her degree in philosophy, but decided that writing about food would be much more fun than writing about Plato. She firmly believes in all things offal, the importance of reading great books, and the necessity of three-hour meals. If she were ever to get a tattoo, it would say "Fat is flavor." Visit her blog, The Offal Cook.

Slashfood: Artisanal Ales for Father's Day


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Trust us: Dad does not need another tie, much less after-shave. This Father's Day, instead of falling back on tired presents, give dear old dad a gift he might actually enjoy -- like an artisanal craft ale. Here are our 10 favorite boundary-busting craft beers guaranteed to make dad grin.

Three Floyds Dreadnaught Imperial IPA:
If your father likes his ales ludicrously hopped, look to Dreadnaught, the knockout punch from Munster, Indiana's Three Floyds brewpub. Clocking in at a cool 100 IBUs (the higher the IBU, the hoppier the beer), the 9.5 percent ABV IPA packs an aroma of mango, peaches and resin. On the tongue? Tons of citrus and caramel malt.

Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast:
First thing in the a.m., what better gift to give your father than a bottle of Beer Geek Breakfast? In this eye-opening stout, the Danish brewery incorporates scads of fresh coffee, chocolate malts and oats. This gives the beer a big ol' body, with enough roasty bitterness and chocolate complexity to savor come morning or night.

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Serious Eats: Shows We're Watching: Indian Food Made Easy with Anjum Anand


This week, I tuned in to another new Cooking Channel show to check out what the network was bringing to the table. I caught an episode of Indian Food Made Easy with host Anjum Anand. It was an interesting show, featuring some delicious looking recipes—and I picked up a few tips on how to spice up my culinary repertoire.

Yet another British import, Anand has been cooking Indian food professionally for years. Her main goal is to banish the stereotype that Indian food is hard to prepare. She says as much in the opening credits to her show: "For most people, [Indian food] is more likely to be a takeaway than homemade. In this series, I want to show you how easy it is to cook it for yourself." She also emphasizes making health-conscious dishes that can appeal to all audiences.

In the episode I watched, "Soccer Party," Anand helps her friend prepare easy Indian fare for a bunch of blokes all watching a soccer championship game. The two are seen shopping for ingredients together, during which time Anand discusses how to choose chilis ("They have to be really shiny; and the smaller they are, the hotter they are"). They then move to the kitchen to prepare a meal of foods that are easy to eat "while watching the game," but are still inspired by the spice and flavors of Indian cooking.

The Food


Mmm, burgers. [Photograph: Leah Douglas]

They make spiced lamb burgers, which are enormous and juicy. An herb-yogurt sauce looks equally appealing, and the camera makes sure to linger over luscious shots of each ingredient as they are added to the bowl and stirred. My personal favorite part of the episode was when Anand prepared paneer from scratch, for a spiced paneer and vegetable skewer. The cheese looked easy to make and absolutely scrumptious—I really do want to make it myself now.

Since the entire episode revolved around showing a friend how to cook Indian food, most of Anand's instruction is aimed toward him and not the camera. This created a bit of a disconnect, but a consistent voice-over narrative provided some nice viewer-to-host contact.


[Photograph: Cooking Channel]

Overall, Anand is a bit of a serious host, not as smiley and attention-grabbing as most mainstream TV chefs. But her passion is evident, and her food looks amazing—and that's plenty of inspiration for me.

Did any of you catch Anjum's show this week? What did you think?

Slashfood: Bobby Jindal Asks BP to Shell Out for Seafood Safety


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Photo: Alex Ogle / AFP / Getty Images

As the BP oil spill rages on, politicians have shifted their focus from outrage to retribution. For Gulf Coast seafood producers, that means collecting damages for the large-scale impact on the area's seafood industry. Yesterday, after meeting with President Obama and other Gulf Coast leaders, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal called for BP to approve a $457 million seafood safety program for the region.

Jindal held his press conference in New Orlean's Acme Oyster House in the French Quarter -- a symbolic location chosen to remind Americans how integral local oysters, shrimp, and crawfish are to the region.

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Serious Eats: Bread Baking: Banana Cinnamon Bread

From Recipes

On Tuesdays, SE'r Donna "dbcurrie" Currie (Cookistry) stops by with a new bread recipe for you to try. Get out your bread pans and get bakin'! —The Mgmt.

20100615 bananacinnamonbread.JPG

[Photograph: Donna Currie]

It happens to everyone. You buy a bunch of bananas, and inevitably a few of them get a little too brown. Banana bread is the easy answer, but sometimes the response is, "Banana bread again?" You could make banana muffins, but who are we fooling? That's just banana bread in a different form.

You could make banana cake, but that's a different column.

Instead, you can bake those bananas into a yeast bread, roll it up with some sugar to sweeten it and some cinnamon to give it a little kick, and you've got a completely different kind of banana bread. Perfect for breakfast or brunch. Or a snack.

If you don't have Greek-style yogurt, you could use regular yogurt. But since regular yogurt has more moisture, you might need to add a bit more flour to compensate. The dough should be soft and supple, but not sticky when you're done kneading.

The scent when this bread is baking is amazing, with the banana and the cinnamon mingling with the sweet yeastiness. The only thing better is eating it.

Banana Cinnamon Bread


1/2 cup lukewarm water
3 teaspoons yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Greek-style yogurt
1/2 cup mashed overripe bananas (about 2 bananas)
2 3/4 cups (12 3/8 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon


1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the water, yeast, and a pinch of the sugar and set it a aside a few minutes to get frothy.

2. Add the remaining sugar, yogurt, bananas, bread flour, salt, and vanilla. Knead with the dough hook until the cleans the sides of the bowl and start to get elastic.

3. Add the olive oil and continue kneading until the mixture is smooth, silky, and elastic.

4. Form the dough into a ball and put back into the bowl. Drizzle it with a little oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

5. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with a little baking spray, if you want the extra insurance that it will come out.

6. Flour your work surface and knead the dough a bit, then roll it out into a rectangle about 9 x 15 inches.

7. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon and spread it evenly over the rectangle, leaving about 3 inches un-sugared at the far end. Roll the dough up, jellyroll-style, so you've got a 9-inch long log. Pinch to seal the ends and the seam.

8. Place the dough seam-side down in the pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

9. Bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until dark golden brown.

10. Remove the loaf from the pan and let it cool completely on a rack before cutting.

About the author: Donna Currie has been cooking for fun and writing for pay since the days when typewritten articles traveled by snail mail. When she combined those talents in a food column for a newspaper in her area, she realized that writing about food is almost as much fun as eating. She most recently launched the blog Cookistry and has now joined the Serious Eats team with a weekly column about baking.

Serious Eats: Starbucks to Offer Free WiFi

20100615-starbucks-logo.pngAccording to the Wall Street Journal, Starbucks will begin offering free WiFi service in its locations beginning July 1, 2010. Previously WiFi was available in Starbucks stores under a variety of options, both free and paid. The new policy ends the ambiguity and also gives customers free access to otherwise paid content on sites such as ... the Wall Street Journal. The move comes after McDonald's started offering free WiFi in locations. Is this welcome news to you? Will you hang out longer in Starbucks now?

Slashfood: Farming Just Got Fabulous


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Photo: Planet Green

On June 16, Planet Green will begin airing a hilarious new reality T.V. series, "The Fabulous Beekman Boys." The "boys" in question are Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, two fabulous Manhattanites who decide to buy and revive a farm in upstate New York. Imagine a gay Green Acres and you're on the right track.

They spoke to Slashfood about the show and what goats are really like.

So what's the show about?
BR: We had this farm for about three years and it was pretty much just a weekend place, and then last year we decided that in order to continue to make the farm successful one of us was going to have to make the commitment to live up there full time. Last February, a year ago, I moved up there full time and Josh comes back and forth on the weekends. The show follows our learning curve as we try to become a successful farm and the way it tests our relationship.

How long have you been together?
JKP: We've been together for 10 years or, as I like to say, we've been together for 9 years and apart for 1. The first year of the show really chronicles what I like to call our year of sacrifice which is Brent really sacrificing his career in the city to try and make a business at the farm.

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Chocolate & Zucchini: Yves Camdeborde's Sablés

Yves Camdeborde's Sablés

Yves Camdeborde's Sablés

Menu Fretin is a young French independent publishing house that specializes in culinary books*. Considering the teeny size of the organization, and how crazily difficult it is for an indie to carve a space for itself among the Goliaths of publishing, its book list is impressive, featuring daring projects that straddle the old and the new.

Menu Fretin has published such historical gems as an augmented edition of Alexandre Dumas' Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine, a biography of Grimod de la Reynière and other assorted texts of nineteenth-century food writing, but also new works by contemporary chefs Olivier Nasti in Kaysersberg, Juliette and Jean-Marie Baudic in Saint-Brieuc, or the twenty-six expatriated French chefs gathered in a collective called Village de chefs.

Late last year, three titles were added as part of a new collection called Menu Festin (small feast). For each of these little books, the clever concept is to have a chef come up with a five-course menu (appetizer, first course, main course, dessert, mignardise or pre-dessert) around a particular theme, then lay out the full cooking timeline throughout the book, with a countdown from the first prep steps to the time of serving. Step-by-step pictures and check lists of tasks and ingredients round out the cook's game plan.

Dimanche en familleOne of these books is called Dimanche en famille and is authored by Yves Camdeborde, the famous Béarnais chef who's often credited for fathering the neo-bistro trend in Paris, where he now runs the über-popular Comptoir du Relais and the hotel it's attached to.

As the title of the book suggests, Camdeborde's menu is for a Sunday family meal, unfolding as follows: his grandmother's gougères (cheese puffs) as an appetizer, then a beef consommé (or broth) with foie gras ravioli, a salt-crusted chicken with chanterelles and pasta, an Armagnac-soaked savarin (a yeast-raised cake) with apricot marmalade and whipped cream, and some vanilla sablés (sandy butter cookies).

I find the entire menu appealing in a traditional way that evokes a family other than my own, a big old house somewhere south, and a table in a garden under a cherry tree. I probably wouldn't serve it all in one go because it sounds like a lot of food, even for a Sunday, but I love that each dish helps you learn one or several techniques, and Camdeborde is generous with his tips and explanations.

The first recipe I tried is the one for sablés, as emphatically recommended by Laurent Seminel, who runs the publishing house.

Butter, sugar, flour, vanilla, salt: it looks like a classic recipe for sablés diamant (butter cookies rimmed with sugar), and it uses my preferred technique of slice-and-baking the log of cookie dough. But what makes it exceptionally successful, I think, is that it calls for a low-temperature oven (150°C or 300°F). This allows the sablés to bake gently and evenly, without coloring, while the sugar coating around the sides has time to form a caramelized crust.

And what you get is, to me, the perfect sablé: a crisp-then-crumbly cookie that tastes of vanilla and butter, with a touch of salt and a caramel undertone.

It is a treat on its own, but it works well with fruit salads and ice cream, too. We've been savoring this latest batch with my chocolate frozen yogurt), before I was inspired to turn the last few into miniature tartlets, with a smear of crème fraîche and a cluster of wild strawberries on top.

The recipe makes a big batch -- the book says it yields eighteen cookies, but mine were bite-size and I got about fifty -- so half of the dough may be frozen for on-demand sablés on a later date.

Want more sablé recipes? Take a look at these:
~ Matcha Shortbread Cookies,
~ Squeeze Cookies made with roasted flour,
~ Crisp Hazelnut and Pepper Cookies,
~ Shortbread.


* In French, the expression menu fretin means things or people of little importance; it is the exact equivalent of the English expression "small fry". The adjective menu(e) means small, and fretin is the small fish that fishermen throw back into the water because they're not worth the trouble.

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Serious Eats: Cook the Book: Cannellini, Caper, Lemon, and Anchovy Crostini

From Recipes


[Photograph: Caroline Russock]

One of my favorite meals at Frankies Spuntino is a simple plate of its incredible crostini. They are perfectly sized, small enough to eat in a bite or two, toasted with just the right amount of crunch, and most important, topped with some of the most delicious combinations around.

These Cannellini, Caper, Lemon, and Anchovy Crostini from The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual by Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo take otherwise none-too-thrilling white beans and turn them into something else. By mixing them with a bright Parsley Pesto and a sharp and tangy mix of anchovies, capers, and garlic, the beans take on a mixture of flavors that makes them into an palate-awakening first course.

The recipe gives you two options for mixing up the crostini topping— the way that the Franks make the crostini in the restaurant, and a more barebones method for easy home approximation. I made mine using the restaurant version and was left with not only a ton of beans for eating on toasted bread but also enough pesto to dress a pound or two of pasta and plenty of dressing for salad making which doesn't hurt to have on hand.

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Cannellini, Caper, Lemon, and Anchovy Crostini

- makes enough for about 8 crostini -

Adapted from The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual by Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo.


1 cup cooked cannellini beans, or canned
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon Parsley Pesto (recipe follows)
1 teaspoon Puntarelle Dressing (recipe follows)


Combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and stir to mix. Use all at once (Frankies puts a heaping tablespoon on each crostini toast) or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a few days.

That's how it's done at the restaurant. For a raid-the-cupboard version, combine 1 cup canned cannellini beans, drained; 1 anchovy and 1 teaspoon capers, mashed or chopped together; 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley; 1/2 teaspoon sine sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon white pepper; 1 tablespoon olive oil; juice of 1/4 lemon. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve over toasted crostini.

Parsley Pesto

- makes a little more than 1 cup-


1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves (from 1 bunch parsley)
2 cloves garlic
1 cup olive oil
Large pinch of fine sea salt
6 to 8 turns white pepper


Combine all the ingredients in a blender, and purée for a couple of minutes, until the mixture is an even green and smooth. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper to your liking. Store the pesto in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Shake before using.

Puntarelle Dressing

- makes a little more than 1 cup -


2 anchovy filets
2 teaspoons capers, soaked
1/2 clove garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon, or more to taste
Freshly ground white pepper
1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus more


Chop the anchovies, capers, and garlic into a near paste. (Roughly chop each on, them combine and work over the pile with your knife.) Transfer the paste to a bowl, add the olive oil, lemon juice, and white pepper to taste, and whisk together. Taste and add more lemon juice if needed, then stir in the parsley and cheese.

Slashfood: Chatting with the Top Chef Masters Runner Ups


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Photo: Kelsey McNeal / Bravo

Despite being edged out by a measly half star, Toronto's Susur Lee and Las Vegas based chef Rick Moonen clearly brought their "A game" throughout the entire second season of Top Chef Masters. Lee served up gorgeous plates of Asian fusion with a classical twist, and Moonen utilized his knowledge of seafood as the foundation for whatever challenges the show presented.

On the season finale, the chefs were asked to cook their life stories -- Lee, following his origins with his father in Hong Kong and Moonen returning to his Queens, New York, roots. Lee's final plate was an artistic display of lamb thailandaise with chang mai sausage; Moonen went with venison, an attempt to persuade the judges to rethink him as just a chef who sleeps with the fishes.

Any of the final three could have won -- and while Lee and Moonen fell short of the prize, they provided season two with more humor than any of the other contestants -- something they'll surely be remembered for, going forward.

Slashfood caught up with Lee and Moonen about the final challenge, how Top Chef Masters helps their career and whether the judges got things right.

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Serious Eats: Video: Heston Blumenthal on the Science of the Soccer Diet

"In the last five, six, seven years, there's been a lot of work on how smell can help performance.... Certain smells, like lavender for example, are meant ot have the potential to improve your performance by 10 to 20 percent."

Serious Eats: Pizza Obsessives: Mike Senese of 'Catch It Keep It'

From Slice

Mike Senese is one of the hosts of the Science Channel's Catch It Keep It, where he's the "Engineer of Destruction." He puts his engineering chops to use coming up with how-to projects in support of his love of pizza. He's used to flamethrowers, so we figured he wouldn't mind a turn in the hot seat here. The Mgmt.


[Photograph: Kate Webber]

Name: Mike Senese
Location: Los Angeles, formerly San Francisco
Website:; @msenese on Twitter

You got a lot of attention for your post on making a temporary DIY WFO. Did you participate in the construction? Did it inspire you to make your own temporary oven or to build a more permanent one?

That oven was part of a two-day pizza course that I took last year at Machine Project, a Los Angeles art/event/workshop group.

We built the oven collaboratively over the course of a few hours, following the lead of the instructor, Michael O'Malley. Its simplicity and effectiveness was completely energizing: Turns out you don't HAVE to spend months completely renovating your back yard if you want to experiment with wood-fired pizza ovens. Just stack a bunch of bricks together, bolt some angle iron around them to hold everything in place, and voilà: pizza oven!


Of course, it doesn't have the elegance of a permanent, masterfully crafted WFO, but the pizzas it cooked were amazing, and we had it torn down and packed up by 4 p.m. The instructor actually brought all the supplies in that morning on his trailer, and brought them home that night. And, he gave me the jig for making the arch. I've been meaning to post the dimensions on my site—it's super simple.


Over the holidays I was getting the materials together to build one at my parents' house and make pizzas for the family but was deterred by a small blizzard. We ended up grilling the pizzas on the barbecue instead.


I still have make one of these temporary-style ones for them at some point. Most likely, I'll cement it together in a more permanent fashion. It's hard to find the time during visits to go all-out on a major build project.

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20100615-mpo-senese-pizza-peel.jpgYou also made a pizza peel, but folks were like, "That's too thick!" Did you ever try revising the how-to?

I posted a few pizza peel designs on that page, some of them are very rudimentary and yes, thick, but my favorite is the one by His design has a smooth, gradual taper from both sides, starting at approximately 1/16 inch and ending at 1-inch thick by the handle. The nice thing about the continuous double taper is there is no serious transition to get caught on when placing or removing the pizza in the oven, and it allows you to maneuver around in a standard floor oven from a more natural standing position, rather than having to kneel on the kitchen floor to get the peel under the pizza.

Recently, though, I've gone back to primarily using my metal peel. I love to eat lunch at the kitchen counter at A16 and watch them make pizza, and they only use metal peels. After getting to use Jeff Krupman's fancy perforated peel, I drilled out my aluminum one this weekend to make a DIY replication. The idea is that it helps reduce burnt, bitter flour buildup under the pizza when you put it in the oven. Possibly even helps with lessening chances of pizza sticking. Results should be posted on my site by the end of the week.


20100615-mpo-senese-stone-in-oven.jpgAs you don't have a WFO at home, what do you normally use to make your pizzas?

In my current house I have an older gas oven with a removable floor. By having the pizza stone placed on the rack, over direct flame, I'm able to get the stone up to 650ºF—much better than most current kitchen ovens, although still not as high as I'd ultimately like it to be.

I found I have to place the stone a couple spaces up the rack because the bottom was burning faster than the top would cook, but I've got it dialed in working pretty well now. The oven design is oddly narrow and deep so I have my stone placed sideways and toppings occasionally get lost in the back.

What's next from your mad pizza scientist lab?

My hero right now is Jeff Krupman, aka Pizzahacker [interviewed here on Slice in March 2010 —The Mgmt.]. His PizzaForge oven design is the epitome of DIY awesomeness. I've met up with him a few times; I spent an evening making pizza with him in SF and another couple nights building an oven with him in his back yard. I have a PizzaForge prototype at my place that I'm experimenting with, both for cooking and design-wise. I'm as excited about it as a kid who just discovered a box full of unopened baseball cards.

I'm also in the process of building some self-watering tomato containers. Last year's tomato plants were a total failure: I was able to make one pizza with the sauce I made from the one small batch of fruit that grew. I figure that one pizza cost me about $75.

What style of pizza do you normally do?

I'm in love with the Neapolitan pizza style, which is not really possible to get perfect in a home kitchen. But I try anyway.


A marinara pizza with kalamata olives from A16 in San Francisco.

What's your favorite topping or topping combination to make?

My go-to pizza tends to be marinara. Sauce, garlic, basil. I like to add kalamata olives, too. Just simple, bold flavors that go well together. It's the pizza I always get at A16 (pictured above), and love to try to replicate. On my last NYC pizza expedition I stuck with marinaras as a way to have an even comparison between all the places.

Do you cook for friends/neighbors?

I LOVE to cook for friends and neighbors. My regular birthday routine involves making a big batch of dough, a huge bowl of sauce, and inviting all my pals over for a nonstop pizza party. I've done this the past four or five years and see no reason to stop. I can't think of a better way to celebrate than by cooking pizza for all my pals.

What do your friends and family think of your pizza madness?

Sometimes I forget that I'm a bit more pizza-obsessive than the normal person, but I think I've inspired a few other pals to get pretty involved in pizza making. It's fun to have friends to share the learning process with. I also get the "You should open a restaurant" line from friends. A lot. I don't think I will, but they're very encouraging.

The Pizza Cognition Theory states that "the first slice of pizza a child sees and tastes ... becomes, for him, pizza." Do you remember your first slice? Where was it from, is the place still around, and if so, does it hold up? On that note, has your taste in pizza evolved over time?

The first pizza that I'm cognitive of eating was Frankie's Firehouse in Enfield, Connecticut. I just checked and, yes, they're still around, been open since 1958. I don't have any recollection of what their pizza was like, but I remember loving it as a kid. In high school, college, and afterward I worked in a few pizzerias, delivery-style joints to family sit-down places. Those remain some of the most fun jobs I've had. But the moment when everything changed was in 2002, when I went to Naples, Italy, to visit family. I was directed to a pizzeria called Di Matteo on Via Tribunale. It's little more than a walk-up counter, but it changed the way I looked at everything involving pizza.


A pizza from Pizzeria Bruno in San Diego, California.

Where do you go for pizza in your area (when you're not making your own)?

I'm still searching for a pizza joint in L.A. that makes an absolutely outstanding pie. Pizzeria Mozza is the best I've found so far, but the last few visits it seemed dry and overcooked. There's nothing truly Neapolitan in L.A. The one main place in town that does Neapolitan pizza is not that great. There are a few places I still need to try, I've heard Terroni and Pace and Caioti are good.

A new place opened in San Diego recently, Pizzeria Bruno Napoletano. I stumbled upon it almost accidentally, and was blown away. Peter Lutz, one of the owners, talked shop with me for an hour after my meal, let me go behind the counter to check out their oven (gorgeous) and show me around. Easily the best pizza I've found in southern California. Two hours from Los Angeles and worth the drive.

What's most important to you: crust, sauce, or cheese?

Right now I'm fixated on getting my dough perfect. I've got a nice starter in my fridge that has been producing good results, although I'd like to play with the Ischia yeast ( that a lot of people are into right now. My grandfather was born in Ischia, so I feel obligated to test it out.

This question makes me think about a possible "pick two" theory. If two of the three components are good, you've got a good pizza. Just one being good isn't sufficient. I just made this up right now, but it seems to might make sense.

What one thing should NEVER go on a pizza?

Every horrible pizza I can imagine is inevitably made by someone into an amazing, gourmet creation later on. But I don't think you could make a good pizza with nacho cheese sauce. I dare someone to prove me wrong.

Weirdest pizza you've ever eaten?

I had "pizza" in Otavalo, Ecuador, that was literally ketchup on toast. I don't even know if that counts, but they INSISTED on calling it pizza.

What's the farthest you've traveled for pizza?

The farthest was when I flew from Norway to Italy for a return trip to Di Matteo. It was August, and when I arrived to Naples I discovered that nearly every business in the city shuts down for vacation for the entire month. This led to me spending four unplanned weeks in Italy waiting for Di Matteo to reopen. I succeeded in finding a couple other great pizzerias. And at one point I got arrested by the police for riding a rented bicycle on the freeway.

If you have anything else you'd like to include, feel free to make up a question or questions to ask yourself!

Not sure of a question for this, but here's a fun timelapse video of me making pizza from a couple years ago:

Also, I'd love to introduce everyone to the awesomeness that is the "pizza strip"—a Rhode Island Italian bakery phenomenon. Dough is pressed into a low, large, rectangular pan and covered with a zesty tomato sauce, baked, and then cut into delicious strips approximately 3-by-6 inches. Served room temperature. They're cheap—a few years back I think I would get three for $2, or maybe even less, at a place near my grandmother's old house called Calvitto's on Park Avenue in Cranston, Rhode Island. I'd order them a dozen at a time, and usually eat most or all of them at once.

Anything else you'd like to get off your chest?

A couple years ago I decided to go vegan, to fight cholesterol (primarily due to the quantity of cheese pizza I was making and eating). Some of the best pizzas I had found in Italy were cheeseless, so the proposition of giving it up didn't scare me. But it often leads to a heavy interrogation when I tell people I'm crazy about pizza but no dairy. I try not to preach about things, but I'd love for people to stop thinking it's so strange. That said, yes, cheese is definitely delicious.

Now: Who would you like to see interviewed next?

I nominate Peter Lutz from Bruno Pizzeria San Diego or Charlie Hallowell from Pizzaiolo (Oakland)—both are knowledgeable and awesomely friendly guys who have some great pizza insight to share.

Slashfood: Tomatillo Salsa - Feast Your Eyes


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When you start exploring the world of Mexican salsas, you'll find they go way beyond the same old tomato-and-chiles mixture. The tomatillo, which is not a tomato but a relative of the Cape gooseberry and American ground cherry, is tiny, bright green and delicately husked, and makes a tart refreshing salsa verde. Blogger joshbousel, of the meatwave blog, shot the photo above, of the salsa he assembled from a recipe adapted from chef Rick Bayless. The tomatillos are husked and grilled first, for a more complex flavor, then combined with chile serrano, garlic, white onion, cilantro, and some sugar, which offsets the tartness.

If you love tomatillos, take them from salsa to guacamole with this recipe from chef Marcus Samuelsson, who serves his guac with beer-battered fish.

Become a member of the Slashfood Flickr pool for a shot of having your photos featured in Feast Your Eyes.

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Serious Eats: Meet & Eat: Janet Johnston, Host of 'Spice & Easy'

"If we get a chance to ease people in to using spices, I'll feel my job had been done."


[Photograph: Donna Currie]

I've often wondered what TV personalites are like when they're off camera. I got my chance to peek into that world when I met Janet Johnston, the host of the Food Network show Spice & Easy and one of the owners of Savory Spice Shop.

On camera, I thought Janet's personality was a nice mix of food passion and quirkiness that made her easy to watch. When she was explaining the spices, she was serious, but she often tossed in oddball comments that were too spontaneous and natural to be scripted.

I couldn't wait to meet her, and I wasn't disappointed when we met at the Boulder, Colorado, Savory Spice Shop location. In person, Janet was as funny, quirky, and serious—sometimes all in the same sentence—as she was on TV.

Janet said that she came into cooking later in life, through her husband, Mike Johnston ("I caught the food bug from him," she said), but that it is now a passion for both of them. "We're spice geeks, foodies...and we love the shop."

When the couple lived in Chicago, Mike had worked for a spice store. They decided that they wanted open their own store and settled on Denver as the ideal location. The first Savory Spice Shop opened there in 2004, a second store opened in Littleton, Colorado, in 2006, and the Boulder store opened in 2008, where Dan Hayward is a partner in the business.

TV Comes a Callin'

The Food Network first took interest in the Johnstons and their store when the Neeleys were doing the Road Tasted show and were planning a visit to Denver. For that episode, Janet and Mike prepared a little cooking demonstration using some of the store's spice blends.

"They came in and we had a blast," Janet said. Members of the production company, Follow Productions, took an interest in Janet. "They asked of I'd ever been on TV before," Janet said. But when they told her, "We'll be in touch," she didn't expect anything would happen.

But it wasn't long before the Johnstons where in a conference call with Gordon Elliot. The Johnstons were invited to be on an episode of Paula's Best Dishes, and afterward the crew shot some interviews with the couple. Unfortunately, the production company decided that they didn't want another cooking couple. "They were looking for a female host for daytime TV," Janet said.

While the Johnstons were a little disappointed they couldn't work together on camera, they decided to forge ahead with Janet in front of the camera and Mike doing his part behind the scenes. "We think people are ready to hear about spices," Janet said, and this show was a way to get the information to a wider audience.

The next step was a meeting with the Food Network's senior VP or programming, Bob Tuschman, who Janet described as "a really, really nice guy." The network filmed a ten-minute screen test and later filmed a pilot for the series.

Making Spices Spicy

One hurdle when creating recipes for the show was "to make spice mixes easily accessible." Savory Spice Shop sells a huge variety of spice blends, some containing a dozen spices, but the show required that the recipes use individual spices or mixes that the audience could buy anywhere. And the list of ingredients had to be short enough that they wouldn't be intimidating. While it was a challenge, Janet said it was also fun to recreate the essence of the mixes with fewer ingredients.

The first show of the series took a week to shoot, and Janet thought it was all going to be pretty simple, with lots of time to redo the mistakes and reshoot things to get them right. Then she learned that the next five episodes would be shot in one week.

Shooting the Show

Much of the shooting was done at the Johnston's home, where "they take over the whole main floor of the house," and even rearranged things in the kitchen. Mike and Janet camped upstairs for the week, but despite the inconvenience, Janet said, "The Follow Productions crew were the nicest people."

The first three days of shooting took place in Janet's kitchen, and the next two days were in the Denver store where the opening and closing scenes were shot, along with all the little snippets where Janet describes a particular spice. The work was exhausting, "Thirteen hour days, easily. You're constantly 'on,'" Janet said. But "the experience was amazing."

The hardest part for Janet during the filming was showing her reaction to the food. She said that she didn't want to be over-the-top with her reactions and decided that she would simply taste the food and react to what she was tasting as naturally as she could. So far, she's happy with the way the shows—and her food reactions—have turned out.

Reacting to Reactions

Now that filming is done, the other hard part is dealing with reactions from the public. She said that she tends not to read comments about the show but Mike does, and they discuss what has been said and look for things they could improve upon.

Some of it is out of their hands, though. Janet said that for some recipes she would love to do a whole show on grinding and blending the individual spices and making just one complicated dish, but the format of her show required her to make a main dish, beverage, and dessert. With only 20 minutes of airtime for each episode, it meant that she couldn't take the time to show everything that she wanted to, but at least it was a first step toward her goal of introducing more spices to more people.

Janet figured that she'd accomplished at least part of her goal when she got a call from her mother (who isn't that interested in cooking), who said that she watched the show and although she didn't actually try to make any of the dishes, she thought to herself, "I could do that." It didn't matter that she didn't actually try the dishes—she was confident that if she wanted to, she could make those meals.

As far as seeing herself on TV, Janet admitted that there were moments when she'd cringe a bit when she saw something she'd done—or said—on camera. And it still catches her off guard when she unexpectedly hears her own voice on TV. She said that the TV is usually tuned to the Food Network while she's busy doing other things and she'll hear a laugh that she thinks sounds like her mother or her sister, and then she realizes that the Food Network is running a promo for her show.

More 'Spice & Easy'?

Janet isn't sure whether there will be another season of Spice & Easy, but she is hoping for one. "Having the show has been kind of a godsend for me," she said. Before she and Mike started working on the recipes for the show, they were becoming so focused on the business end of their store that "we started to get away from food." Working on the show helped shift that focus. "It's got Mike and I back into the kitchen."

And if there are no more shows? "It was a really fun ride."

Janet said that while some people's ultimate goal is to have a show on Food Network, that was just a sideline for her. "I'm a spice merchant," she said. But more than just selling spices, she wants to sell people on the idea of using new and different spices, and she sees her spice blends as a way to for people to learn how to use multiple spices in a dish in a less intimidating way. "If we get a chance to ease people in to using spices, I'll feel my job had been done," she said.

Alinea At Home: Beef, elements of A1

A few things before we get started:

1) I had dinner at Alinea the week before last.  It was beyond beyond beyond any dinner I've had there before.  It kicked my ass, made out with me, screamed at the top of its lungs, did a mile of back handsprings, and blew my mind.  Details are forthcoming.

2) The new season of Top Chef (in DC!) starts this week on Bravo, and I have the delightful honor of recapping the series each week for Washingtonian magazine.  Every Wednesday night/Thursday morning, the recaps will go up here.  Hope you'll come over Washingtonian-way and join the convo. 

*  *  *  *  *

When I ate at Alinea last year, I had a different version of this dish.  The A1 was powdered, and while it wasn't bad, I really only ate it on one bite of the beef it was served to accompany.  I'm just not a fan of A1.  My brother slathers it all over his steak.  Friends of mine put it on scrambled eggs.  Me?  I've just never liked the taste of it, nor have I ever gotten the appeal of it.  If beef is good on its own, then why add anything to it? 

That said, I was curious to try this dish because every individual ingredient appealed to me.

My food-savvy friend, Joey, IMed me a few days ago to ask what dish I was working on for this week's post.  When I wrote "Beef -- page 194," there was a loooong pause before I got a return IM from him that read, "Wow, that recipe just goes on and on and on!" 


It does.

It's a six-pager.  Twenty elements in all.  Lots of dehydrating.  Lots of sous vide action.  Lots of dishwasher cycles.  Lots of lovely, lovely food I was so excited to cook.  Let's get to it.

I made this over the course of two days.  I needed to.  I don't have enough counter space or stove-top space or dehydrator trays or electrical outlets in all the right places to have done this all at once.  Time for a kitchen renovation, methinks.

Day One

Let me start by saying that there are two elements of this dish I did not do: the red pepper reduction and the dried red pepper.  Not too long ago, I found out the hard way that bell peppers are not my friend.  The first clue should've been when cutting them made my hands itch and my fingers swell.  Why I ate them after that is beyond me.  But I did.  And it wasn't pretty.  So, scratch those off the list. 

First up?  The raisin puree.

Now, I don't know about you, but I am vehemently opposed to the production and purchase of brown raisins.  They're flies without wings.  They're rat turds.  They are not, nor have they ever been, two scoops of sunshine, no matter what Madison Avenue tries to tell you.  They completely squick me out and I won't buy them or eat them.  Golden raisins, on the other hand, I can handle.  They're lovely to look at, and they've got a little more life to them.

So, I chose to make the raisin puree with golden raisins. I blanched them three times, then put them in the blender with a little salt until the mixture was smooth.  I pressed that mixture through a chinois into a little storage container until I was ready to plate the next day:



The next thing I did was dehydrate some tomato slices:


After six hours, they looked like this:


Then, I dehydrated some elephant garlic:


I blanched very thin slices of that garlic in milk (three times!) and dehydrated them.  After three hours, they looked like this:


Next up?  Dried orange zest.  I've gotten really good at peeling oranges, so that I don't have to go back and carefully slice away the pith.  I peeled these two oranges....


... then sliced those peels into thin strips, blanched them in simple syrup, then dehydrated them.  After four hours, they looked like this:


And now, for some onion rings! I sliced this onion across its equator:


... then, I used my mandoline to slice very thin slices, which I cooked and soaked in simple syrup before dehydrating.  After five hours, they looked like this:


Mmmmmm, ginger:


I peeled and very thinly sliced that ginger (using my mandoline), which I simmered in simple syrup for about 15 minutes.  After five hours in the dehydrator, they looked like this:

Next up was the rib eye. I knew I was only having 4 or 5 people over for this dish instead of my usual 7 or 8, so I only bought half the amount I needed:


I cleaned up those slabs o' meat -- removing all the outer fat and silverskin.  The book instructs you to save the fat so you can render it for the potato portion of this dish, but I already had rendered beef fat in the fridge, so I saved this fat to render later in the week. After the rib eyes were cleaned up, I cut them into small 3- to 4-oz portions, put them in a Ziploc sous vide bag, and cooked them sous vide in 134F-degree water for 20 minutes:


When the meat was done cooking, I plunged it into a large bowl of ice water (more ice than water) to stop the cooking process.  When it had sufficiently cooled, I put the bag of meat in the fridge to keep it cold until the next day, when I would finish everything for this dish.

Day Two

I got an early start so I could make sure everything got done, and have a few hours of buffer time in case anything went drastically wrong.

The first thing I did on the second day was make the spiced vinegar sauce. It starts with toasting whole cloves and allspice berries, grinding them to a fine powder, then adding the spice powder to a saucepan with water, sugar, and vinegar.  I brought this mixture to a boil:  DSC_0003

After it had boiled for a few seconds, I turned off the burner and let it steep for 20 minutes.  Then, I poured it through a fine-mesh strainer into another saucepan, added the agar agar and brought that to a boil, whisking like crazy while it boiled for 90 seconds.  I poured that mixture through yet another fine-mesh strainer into a bowl set in a bowl of ice so it could cool and start to set:


After about 45 minutes nestled in the bowl of ice, I moved the vinegar mixture (which was starting to set) to the fridge where it could get really cold and finish setting.

The next thing I worked on was the bitter orange puree.  I kinda had to MacGyver this because I couldn't find bitter oranges anywhere I looked or called.  No one had them.  So, I decided I'd use regular navel oranges.  But, with bitter oranges, the trick is to sous vide the entire orange (peel and all) because that activates the pectin and thickens it to a puree.  I didn't want to do that with regular oranges (because the makeup of the peel and the pith is different from bitter oranges), so instead, I decided to supreme two large navel oranges and put them in a saucepan with all the other ingredients the recipe called for -- simple syrup, grapeseed oil, and salt.  I lowered the amount of grapeseed oil (from 50g to 30g) because for some reason it felt like the right thing to do.  I brought this mixture to a boil, then let it continue to cook on a high simmer for about 45 minutes, until the oranges had really begun to break down and get stewy:


I put that mixture into my blender and whacked it around on really high speed until it was nice and smooth.  Then, I returned it to the pan, and added 8g of apple pectin and brought it to a boil again, whisking the entire time to incorporate the pectin.  It started to thicken, and you'll see the final orange puree in the plating shot at the end of the post.  I was really happy with the way it turned out, considering I pretty much had no idea what I was doing and relied on my ever-growing knowledge of SCIENCE.

The next thing I worked on was the anchovy sauce.  I'd made anchovy butter the day before (and forgot to take photos).  I reduced some veal stock, then added just a few grams of the anchovy butter (which I made by pureeing some anchovy filets along with some unsalted butter), and whisked it to incorporate.


You'll see the finished product in the final plating photo.

The next thing I did was bake the potato slices before turning them into sort-of-potato-chips.  In the book, Chef suggests using a Japanese rotary slicer to make loooooong strips.  I don't have a Japanese rotary slicer (Even though I want one.  Bad.), so I just sliced a russet potato on my mandoline and made smaller strips instead of one big, long strip.

But before I even did that, I melted some of the rendered beef fat in the new (!!) All-Clad copper pot I was given at the James Beard Awards (it's just so pretty -- I use it all the time):



I sliced this potato as thinly as I possibly could...


... then laid those slices (which I'd trimmed to a more even rectangle shape) on a sheet pan I'd brushed with some of the rendered beef fat, then brushed a little more beef fat on the tops of those slices, and put them in the oven for 6 minutes.  


When they were done, I transferred the potato slices onto a different sheet pan which I'd lined with parchment.  When they'd cooled to room temperature, I covered them with another piece of parchment paper and let them rest before I needed to deep-fry the ends of them for the plating.

By now, the vinegar sauce gel was MORE than set: 

I chopped it up a bit and put it in the blender on high speed for a minute or two (along with some kosher salt) until it was a smooth puree.  I pushed it through a chinois, and you'll see the final outcome in the plating photo at the end.

Are you tired yet?  This might seem like it was exhausting or a lot of work, but it really wasn't.  I promise.

Last, but not least, the Yukon gold puree.  I started with these two bad boys:


I put them in a Ziploc sous vide bag and cooked them in a pot of 190F-degree water on the stovetop for an hour.  I helped keep them below the water's surface by dunking a ladle in and letting it fill with water so that it could be a bit of a weight:
DSC_0013 When the potatoes were done, I mashed them through a tamis into a saucepan with warmed cream in it:

Then, over low heat, I stirred in nearly two sticks of butter (yes, kids, that's a ratio even Ruhlman could love -- a 1:1 potato to butterstick ratio), a few 1/2" cubes at a time until it was fully incorporated and the potatoes were creamy.

The last thing to do before plating was to sear the meat.  Well, the last thing, really, to do was to go through the list of elements in this dish and make sure I had everything lined up for plating.  Sauces?  Check.  Dehydrated items?  Check.  Purees?  Che.... oh, wait.  Oh no. 


Somehow, in all my meticulous planning I'd forgotten to make the chive puree.  Even worse?  I completely forgot to buy chives, and the meager amount growing in my garden right now wouldn't even come close to the 8 oz. I needed for the puree.


So, I kicked myself in the butt a few times and soldiered onward.  I had no choice.  I was 15 minutes away from everyone coming over, so there was no time to run up to the Co-op and spring what likely would've been $15 on 8 oz. of chives. 

I deep-fried (in canola oil) the ends of the potato strips (which you'll see in the final plating shot) and seared the beef on the grill-top:


And then, I plated everything:  DSC_0022

So, clockwise: raisin puree, garlic chip, dried tomato, potato strip, beef (atop potato puree), a streak of the orange puree, a blorp of spiced vinegar sauce, dried orange zest, chive tips (from my garden), another piece of beef (atop an anchovy strip) with an onion ring on top of that next to some of the anchovy sauce.  There's a ginger chip underneath that second piece of beef, and some fresh ginger juice drip-dropped on top of everything.

I am really proud of this dish.  It was a lot of work, and it was the first thing I cooked after having dinner at Alinea.  After visiting the mothership.  After being in the presence of greatness on a plate.  I'll admit I was a little intimidated to open this cookbook again after my time in Chicago.  To see and to taste and to experience the absolute pleasure that kitchen and the service team provides can be overwhelming and humbling.  It was both those things, but it also energized me and put me on a higher plane of appreciation when I sliced that onion so so thin.... when I peeled that orange zest.... and when I MacGyvered that orange puree.  It made me really pay even more attention to what I was doing and how I was doing it (except for the chive puree brain fart).

That plate of food you see above tasted really, really good.  Thinking back on it now, I could've been more generous with the ginger juice, I think.  I was conservative with it because fresh ginger is such a powerful flavor that I didn't wanna go overboard and have everyone be like, "Um, could I have a little beef with my ginger?"  But now that I've eaten it, I know I could've done a few more drops or drizzles.  Even with that, I thought this was really good.  All the flavors, of course, played nicely with one another as they were meant to.  I wish I hadn't forgotten the chive puree, because I think that would've amped it up even more. 

I really loved this dish, and while I might not make it the same exact way in the future, as we get into summer and I dream of grilled steak (hold the A1), I can totally see a green salad with a lot of these ingredients, and an herbed potato salad to go with.

Meanwhile, I've got leftover potato puree to go reheat for breakfast.  Don't you wish you were here?

Up Next: Prosciutto, or Chocolate.

Resources: Rib eye, oranges, butter, tomato, onion, ginger, and potatoes from Whole Foods; raisins, elephant garlic, cloves and allspice from the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op; Domino sugar; Terra Medi white wine vinegar; agar agar from Terra Spice; David's kosher salt; Roland grapeseed oil and anchovies; veal stock from my freezer; Organic Valley cream; rendered beef fat from my fridge; Natural by Nature milk; chives from my garden; 365 canola oil.

Music to Cook By: Journey; Escape.  I kind of hate that "Glee" has adopted Journey as their go-to band for the show.  That said, this album is always in my regular rotation.  I can't help it.  It's an old, old favorite and brings back so many amazing memories from my junior high and high school days.  No matter what kind of day I'm having, Journey: Escape always makes it better.  It just does.

Read My Previous Post: Goose, blood orange, sage, roasting goose aroma (adaptation)

Serious Eats: Equipment: How to Buy, Use, and Care for a Meat Grinder

Each week J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (KA Cuisine and will drop by with a list of tools or a tool you might want to stock your kitchen with—if you haven't already. Kenji also writes The Food Lab column here on SE. You can fan The Food Lab on Facebook for play-by-plays on his future kitchen tests and recipe experiments.—The Mgmt.


If you are still asking the question, "Why should I grind my own meat?" All I can say is that you probably haven't been following this blog for too long. The advantages are numerous, but here are just a few:

  • It's safer. Prepackaged beef can contain meat from hundreds, even thousands of animals, and not necessarily from the nicest bits either. This means that you've got to be extra careful when cooking with prepackaged ground beef—chances of contamination are higher, and medium-rare burgers are right out
  • Better flavor. Unless you've got a really great butcher, you're stuck with whatever ground beef the supermarket has on hand. Usually this is no more specific than knowing the fat content. Grinding at home allows you to control what cuts go into your grind, along with the fat content
  • Better texture. Preground meat sits in its packaging, being slowly compressed and oxidizing. Grinding if fresh lets you keep it nice and loose, improving both moisture levels, and texture after cooking
  • It's cool. Anyone who makes their own sausage or grinds their own beef for their burgers gets instant street cred in my book

While it's possible to grind meat in a food processor, or even to chop it by hand, a dedicated meat grinder is your best option if you plan on grinding meat on a regular basis. Here's a basic guide on how to select, use, and maintain your grinder.

The Parts

All meat grinders consiste of the same basic parts:


  • The pusher and hopper are where you add cubes of meat. The pusher is used to force the meat down the feed tube and to keep things moving. Usually, there is a tray located on top of the feed tube where extra meat can be stored before being pushed into the grinder. The larger this tray, the more convenient it is to grind larger batches of meat
  • The screw is the main working part of the grinder. It steadily pushes meat down the shaft, and toward the blades
  • The blade and plate are what do the actual grinding. The blade is a small cross-shaped piece with a sharp edge on each arm that rotates against the plate (also called the die). The plate is a flat piece of metal with holes cut into it. As the screw forces the meat into these whole, the blade cuts it into a fine mince. The size of the holes determines the fineness of the final grind
  • The cover is used to keep the blade and plate in place as it chops

Although the basic parts are all the same, you have a number of options when it comes to buying a meat grinder. The good news is, none of them is bad.

Manual Grinders


Manual grinders are the cheapest way to get good quality freshly ground meat at home, and are a great option for casual grinders who don't own a stand mixer. You have two options.

If you've got a nice wood work table or counter top and are planning on doing a lot of grinding, a bolt-mounted meat grinder is the way to go. At less than $40, they should last you a near lifetime of grinding, provided you care for the working parts properly. For an even cheaper, though slightly less sturdy option, at $29.95, this clamp-mounted model allows you to work on any tabletop you'd like.

One word of warning: The clamp-mounted models tend to be less sturdy than the bolt-mounted ones, and getting the pieces to fit together properly can sometimes be a pain. It'll still grind your meat just as well, but do expect a few headaches trying to put it together and take it apart.

Stand Mixer Attachments


The next level up is for anyone who owns a stand mixer. All of the major brands have their own attachments, including KitchenAid ($49.95), Viking ($124.95), and Cuisinart ($128.95).

The great thing about buying a meat grinder attachment is that you already know that the hardest working part of your grinder—the motor—is going to be a workhorse that can power through even the toughest grinding projects.

You are basically stuck buying the attachment for whatever brand stand mixer you own in this department, but none of the options are that bad. While both the Cuisinart and the Viking feature all-metal parts, which can stay chilled for longer than the plastic KitchenAid model, they are also three times more expensive.

Stand mixer attachments are a great option if you make a lot of sausage. You can grind the meat directly into the processor bowl, then attach the bowl to the machine and immediately start mixing it with the paddle to develop protein. It's a real time-saver.

Standalone Grinders

Screen shot 2010-06-14 at copy.jpg

I don't know many home cooks outside of those who do a lot of hunting who have a need for a standalone grinder, like this one from Waring ($99.95). Although they usually come with a wider assortment of plates, a wider feed tube and screw shaft, the motor is only as good as the money you pay for it. Cheaper models will work no better than the stand mixer attachments, and more expensive models are only necessary if you plan on doing a whole lot of grinding. I grind well more than the average cook, and my KitchenAid attachment has yet to fail me.

The one distinct advantage that standalone grinders have is that most of them have a reverse function—a real time-saver if you are trying to chop especially troublesome meat with lots of connective tissue to get caught in the blade.

Sausage Stuffers

Most meat grinders and attachments come with funnels designed for stuffing sausages. They will work in a pinch but can be a real headache to use. The main problem is that they don't push the meat forcefully enough, so stuffing sausages can take five or ten times longer than it should. All the while, the meat is slowly warming up.

I've had better luck stuffing sausage with a pastry bag (this requires two people—one to squeeze the bag, the other to pull the casings off the end as the meat comes out), but if you're really serious about sausage-making, you'll want a piston-based stuffer that pushes the meat out with a lever rather than trying to force it out with a screw. The result is faster, tighter sausages with fewer air bubbles.

Necessary? No. Useful? Definitely.

How to Use and Care for Your Meat Grinder

There's really not much to it when it comes to using a meat grinder. Basically, all you've got to do assemble the grinder with the plate you desire, take your trimmed meat (grinders hate sinew and connective tissues, so make sure to trim it all out), feed it into the hopper, turn the grinder on (if using a grinder on a stand mixer attachment, a relatively fast speed is the way to go—I've found that about 6 to 8 on the KitchenAid produces the best results), and press the meat through. Ground meat, simple as that.

That said, there are a few things to keep in mind while grinding:

  • Keep everything cold. This is the single most important thing when it comes to grinding. Warm meat will smear, the fat will leak out, and it will come out with a cooked texture similar to papier-mâché—pulpy, and dry. Ugh. Place the grinder and all of its parts in the freezer for at least one hour before grinding (I keep mine stored in the freezer all the time), keep your meat well chilled right until ready to grind. If you are making sausage that will require several grinds, grind the meat into a bowl placed inside another bowl filled with ice in order to keep it chilled during grinds
  • Trim your meat well. The No. 1 cause of smearing is when bits of sinew get caught around the blade, causing it to go dull. Rather than chopping meat, you end up smooshing it through the holes on the plate, giving you a chewed up texture. Trimming your meat well will help prevent this
  • Watch for smearing. Keep an eye on the meat as it comes out of the grinder. Ideally, it'll come out of each hole in discrete little pieces. You should be able to clearly identify fat and meat. If it starts coming out as one mass, looks wet, and collects on the surface of the die, you are in trouble. If your grinder has a "reverse" function, use it and see if it fixes itself. Otherwise, disassemble the mechanism, clean the blade, and start over
  • Keep your blade sharp. The blade is the only part of your grinder that should ever need much care or attention. A dull blade will smear meat. Luckily, the blade and plate should actually get better and better with repeated use. The metal grinds down microscopically each time you use it, so the contact between the blade and the plate should get tighter and tighter. Nothing grinds as smoothly as a well-taken care of, well-used grinder. You will occasionally need to get your blades resharpened if they've gotten way too dull. Once a year or so for a moderately well-used grinder is more than enough. Or, simply buy a few replacement blades. They can usually be had for a few bucks
  • Keep your plate clean. Allowing meat to dry and stick to the blade is a good way to get yourself sick. Make sure to remove and wash all parts of the grinder well between grinds. Even on a stainless steel model, the plate is often made of a different die-cast material which will tarnish if you stick it in the dishwasher. Your best bet is to wash it by hand in hot soapy water, and carefully dry it with a clean towel after each use
  • Grind from large to small die. If you need an extra-fine grind for certain types of sausages, make sure to grind your meat twice, chilling it again between batches: Once through a larger 1/4-inch die, then a second time through the smaller die. This will help prevent smearing, will give you a more even grind, and a better textured sausage in the end
  • Salt meat for sausages before grinding, and meat for burgers after forming your burgers. When you add the salt to your meat has a huge impact on the finished texture. When added before grinding and mixing, it dissolves some of the proteins, allowing them to crosslink more easily into a tight matrix, and leading to a springier, sausagelike texture

A Final Quick Tip

After you're done grinding, before you take the grinder apart or move the bowl at all, take a couple wadded-up paper towels and pass them through the grinder just like you are grinding meat. They won't come out the other end, but they will push out any stray bits of meat that have managed to stay behind, as well as help clean out the inside of the feed tube and shaft. Better yield and easier clean-up result.

About the author: After graduating from MIT, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt spent many years as a chef, recipe developer, writer, and editor in Boston. He now lives in New York with his wife, where he runs a private chef business, KA Cuisine, and co-writes the blog about sustainable food enjoyment. Become a fan of The Food Lab on Facebook for play-by-plays on future kitchen tests and recipe experiments.

Serious Eats: The Crisper Whisperer: 10 Small Ways to Eat Joyfully this Summer

From Recipes

You may know Carolyn Cope as Umami Girl. She stops by on Tuesdays with ideas on preparing the abundance of fruits and vegetables you might get from your CSA or the market. —The Mgmt.


[Photograph: Carolyn Cope]

With farms and gardens across the northern hemisphere bursting into bloom, it's the perfect time to kick back and enjoy being a food lover. Ripe summer fruits and vegetables make a vibrant palette for the ambitious cook and an easy-peasy meal for the casually inclined. What could be more inspiring than a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes on the kitchen counter, or more relaxing than a picnic lunch that pairs them with fresh cheese, warm bread, crisp wine and absolutely nothing else?

Isn't it almost unbearably delightful? I think so, too. I'm drunk on the headiness of the season like Ruth Bourdain is high on pixie tangerine zest.

It's a good thing, too—because the sober alternative isn't pretty. Everywhere you look, anxiety about the state of our food system is reaching proportions as epidemic as the obesity it's contributing to. With thousands of opinions about how and what to eat—some inspired, some merely shouted—it's enough to cause a serious case of analysis paralysis at the market. I know I've personally fallen prey to indecision and frustration more than once, and I spend a good part of every day paying attention to the ins and outs of the what-to-eat discussion. It can't be much prettier for the rest of you.

I'm raising the issue for a serious reason, which is that sometimes I get a little worried about the fate of the sustainable food movement. Speaking of heady buzzes, I really, really like some of the changes afoot in the nether regions of the food chain at the moment. But if eater anxiety wrings the joy out of enough people's relationships with food, it won't be easy for all those wonderful, super-secret, magic developments to see the light of day. And where's the fun in that?

Do you know what's a lot more fun than bossed-around, humorless eating? It's remembering to take wholehearted pleasure in our food, and truly allowing ourselves to do so. Life in a state of imperfect uncertainty is nothing new, so as far as I'm concerned, we might as well weather it happily and with bellies full of sour cherries.

In that spirit, and without further ado, a gentle reminder to love the food you're with, and ten small ways to do it.

1. Go Picking

For cheap outdoor entertainment that doubles as both educational experience and healthy dessert, head to your local u-pick farm to pick berries and stone fruits. To find a farm near you, check out and

2. Then, Make a Crisp

Once you're home and swimming in fruit, make the ultimate in breezy, riffable desserts: a fruit crisp. It's so flexible it even serves as an unapologetic breakfast. Crank the oven to 375°F. In a deep-dish pie plate or small casserole, toss three pints of berries or cut-up stone fruit with a scant 1/4 cup each of sugar (depending on the fruit's sweetness) and cornstarch, plus a big squeeze of lemon juice. In a small bowl, mix together with your fingertips 3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats, 3/4 cup flour, 2/3 cup brown sugar, 8 tablespoons butter, and a pinch of salt. Distribute the topping over the fruit and bake until browned and bubbly, about 45 minutes.

3. Cook and Eat with Friends

The desirability and benefits of sharing a meal with friends couldn't be more obvious, but sometimes it's tricky to fit it in as much as we'd like. Next time you're waffling about whether to initiate a get-together, don't let yourself rationalize against it. Host a simple pot-luck, or cook together, so no one gets stuck with too much prep. The time you invest will pay dividends in clearheaded happiness in the following week.

4. Drink a Really Good Beer from Your Region

It's gotten pleasantly possible to find good craft beer in just about every region of the U.S. I'm no brewmaster, but I know that there are five or six really good, easily obtainable beers from my region, whose brewers I suspect I'd like if we met in person one day. And I know that good beer makes people happy. So.

5. Leaf Through the Pages of an Edible Publication

For inspiration in both the methods and motives of cooking locally and seasonally, pick up a free copy of your region's Edible magazine or the gorgeous new book Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods, which draws the best from each region together. These publications strike an inviting, inclusive tone that will make you love good food so much you'll want to marry it.

6. Plant Some Basil

Short of an apartment with zero windows, there's not much excuse to have a working kitchen without a pot of basil and maybe a few other herbs. Don't get me wrong: I had exactly that for many years, so I'm not judging. But now that I know the pleasures of snipping fresh leaves to my heart's content, I can't imagine it any other way.

7. Corrupt a Perfectly Respectable Vegetable

If you find yourself acting overly virtuous in the presence of vegetables, editing your behavior the way you might with a distinguished colleague or elderly family member, try to let loose. Make something ridiculously rich, like creamy kale or zucchini tempura, to break the ice. Afterward, you'll feel much freer to express yourself, which only ever improves a relationship.

8. Try Something Crazy

Next time you're at the farmers' market, buy something you've never tried before or aren't overly familiar with. Let the farmer talk your ear off about the best ways to prepare it. Then go home and give it a try. It'll be delicious more times than not; and if you loathe it, the story will be all the more interesting.

9. But Don't Forget About the Old Stand-bys

Food is a powerhouse of memory and emotion. Let it fulfill its destiny. Cook your grandmother's recipes for your kids. Try to re-create the perfect salad from the restaurant you splurged on, that last night of your vacation. Dip organic baby vegetables generously in the horrible/wonderful onion soup dip you secretly still love. (Share it with your friends—they love it, too, along with David Lebovitz and Kim Severson. Don't you feel so validated?)

10. Share Your Own Food-joy Wisdom with Your Friends

No, seriously. As always, we want to hear from you. If you're the type to think about your food and love it, too, how do you focus on enjoying good food without shouldering the weight of the world? Let us know in the comments.

About the author: Carolyn Cope writes Umami Girl and manages a CSA in New Jersey.

Steamy Kitchen: recipes and cooking: The plan! The plan!

The plan! The plan!

Our SmartFarm has transformed from hand-drawn cartoon to a real plan!!!! <-larger image


Before I even get to The Plans! The Plans! Can I just do a 20-second drive by of my NYC trip?

I’ve been to New York City so many times these past couple of years that if Mayor Bloomberg handed out frequent visitor points, I probably would have won a sizeable prize, possibly a brand new condo in downtown. Or maybe just the parking space for said condo. Okay, probably just a 4-inch plastic replica of the Statue of Liberty. Heck, I’d even settle for bus pass.

NYC is a big place, especially since I’ve lived almost 8 years in a little town in Florida, and there’s not much in the city that intimidates me – except for ONE thing.

It’s not the tall tall buildings…

Not the nutty street vendors…

Not even a 4-foot iPhone…

This comes close though — bad clipart…

A presentation during CM Summit by Vice President of Product Management at Google, who was giving us a presentation on how Google Buzz did during its first year.

::shudder:: Maybe they need to start Google ClipArt…

What scares me the most about NYC is this dude right here scares the bejeebers outta me. The famous naked cowboy, well, not completely naked but a cowboy hat, cowboy shoes and tighy whiteys.

People pay him money to take a photo with him and touch his toosh. Like a good tourist, I had my wad of dollar bills out, eagerly waiting in line for my turn. That is, until I shook my head, snapped out of the tourist-zombieness and asked myself:




Next stop: chocolate!

Can you guess who’s chocolate store this is?

An angel made of chocolate…oh yes please!

It just so happens that Todd and Diane were doing some work for this very famous chocolatier and pastry chef and his wife. Introductions were made, timing was right and we met up with this man….can you guess?

I used to watch him on television religiously. I had a massive crush on him. Thought he was the sexiest thing.

He’s a master of sweetness…

Do you remember Dessert Circus?

It’s Jacques Torres!

After a tour of his shop, Jacques to me and my good friend, Mark Tafoya to eat at one of his favorite restuarants, Socarrat Paella Bar

Jacques likes to drizzle a bit of olive oil over the paella before digging in.

He’s a lovely. And I want you all to meet his wife, Hasty of Madame Chocolate – remember I said Todd and Diane were working with them? Well I get to show off their work!!

The real reason for the trip was 2 things – a meeting with Planet Green/Discovery Health to discuss the SmartFarm plans and to also come here

And be on the Martha Stewart Radio Show to talk about the SmartFarm.

Big microphone! Hello? Is this thing on?!

Terri Trespicio, host of Whole Living on Martha Stewart Radio Show and also editor of Whole Living Magazine (formerly named Body+Soul)

And I finally, finally got to meet happy cheerful Sandy Gluck of Everyday Food show!

Slashfood: Kitchen Remodeling Trends You Should Avoid


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Photo: j l t, Flickr

Us food folks love the kitchen. A place where delicious meals are prepared and then consumed? It's naturally our favorite room in the home. So when it comes time to replace those tired countertops, rusty plumbing or appliances on the fritz, our bellies drive us to open our wallets for the most lavish, extravagant remodel.

Keeping us in check, though, are our friends over at ShelterPop, who took the advice of some handy, thrifty designers on how remodeling money should, or more importantly, should not be spent. Rather than falling for trends, these experts encourage homeowners to "recycle consciously, refine gradually and regret minimally."

Head over to ShelterPop to find out which five kitchen trends you should avoid, so you can dine comfortably in your redone kitchen five years from now, guilt-free (and with enough money for dinner).

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Slashfood: SweetWater Brewing's Road Trip Ale - Beer of the Week


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Photo: Tim Glover

I'm a sane and modest man, but last week's humid heat wave made me consider strolling around shirtless, clad in a skimpy Speedo.

But in lieu of taking drastic fashion measures to cool down, I instead reached into my fridge and retrieved 12 ounces of liquid air conditioning. Did I nab an effervescent pilsener? A hopped-up ale? How about a little bit of both.

Hailing from Atlanta's SweetWater Brewing, the Road Trip Ale is a stylistic mishmash of the best sort. The summer seasonal began life as a pilsener dosed with lager yeast, which usually requires a long, cool period of fermentation. Instead, Road Trip was fermented at higher, ale-friendly temperatures, then dosed with herbal Sterling and citrusy, fragrant Cascade hops.

"The flavors are fantastic," says Steve Farace, SweetWater's "minister of propaganda." Fermenting at ale temperatures, he adds, "lets more of the hop profile come through. You get the crisp pilsener up front, then lots of hops."

Continue reading SweetWater Brewing's Road Trip Ale - Beer of the Week

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Slashfood: Country Singer and Sausage Mogul Jimmy Dean Dies


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Jimmy Dean in 1964. Photo: AP Photo

It's a sad time for pork lovers. Jimmy Dean, the country music singer-turned-sausage entrepreneur died yesterday.

The 81-year-old was best known musically for his hit, "Big Bad John," but for millions of Americans he was equally revered for his contribution to the breakfast table.

His wife, Donna Meade Dean, said her husband died at their Henrico County, Va., home on Sunday. Although he had health problems, she said his death -- he was found unresponsive in front of the television -- came as a surprise.

Dean was a workingman's hero. Born in 1928, he grew up in Plainview, Texas, during the Great Depression and dropped out of school before the 10th grade. After enlisting in the Air Force in 1946, he began playing his accordion at a bar near Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., eventually landed a gig as the host of a local television jamboree. By the early 1950s, Dean's band had its first national hit in "Bummin' Around." From there, he hopscotched his way to the pinnacle of country music fame, with "Big Bad John" hitting number one on both the Billboard Pop and Billboard Country Charts in 1961.

Continue reading Country Singer and Sausage Mogul Jimmy Dean Dies

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All Posts: Magic Bullet To Go - Contest & Giveaway

Magic Bullet To Go - Contest & Giveaway

If you are someone who likes to cook, I'm sure you know about Magic Bullet - the lovely food processor ensemble which can make your life in the kitchen a tad bit easier by taking away the load of cutting, chopping, grinding, blending and more! And now, the readers of Fun and Food Cafe have a chance to win a free Magic Bullet Express!

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Slashfood: Chicken Cordon Deux (Fancy KFC Double Down) - Fancy Fast Food


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Photo: Erik Trinidad

So everyone's up in arms about KFC's Double Down, the sandwich sensation "so meaty, there's no room for the bun!" Fast foodies praise its inventiveness, while nutrition and health advocates condemn its use of fatty fried chicken in lieu of bread -- but is it really that bad or even that ingenious? Think about it; take away KFC's gimmicky breadless marketing campaign and the Double Down is not that different from Chicken Cordon Bleu, an established and well-respected recipe from the gourmet chefs of the famous eponymous French culinary institution. And of course, everyone knows everything in France is fancy, especially when it's spelled and pronounced "bleu" instead of "blue."

When you break it down, the Double Down and Chicken Cordon Bleu are both dishes with melted cheese and pig meat surrounded by chicken that is breaded before frying or baking. Rather than transform a fast food dish into something completely different this time, let's prove this point:

Read on for the "recipe" for Chicken Cordon Deux after the jump...

Continue reading Chicken Cordon Deux (Fancy KFC Double Down) - Fancy Fast Food

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Slashfood: Peanut-Free at 30,000 Feet?


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Airline passengers, buckle up: Peanut snacks may soon go the way of friendly security lines and hot in-flight meals. The U.S. Transportation Department is considering a ban on the little bags of nuts, once ubiquitous on the nation's flights. The move has nothing to do with terrorists, or even budget cuts. It's a concession to the 1.8 million Americans who suffer from peanut allergies.

This ban was briefly considered back in 1998, but after a massive uproar from peanut lovers, the measure was reconsidered. But peanut allergies continue to pose a serious threat, however, triggering potentially life-threatening reactions in people who consume even trace amounts. And in an airplane, where all of the air is re-circulated, breathing in peanut dust is virtually unavoidable.

The peanut industry obviously isn't keen on losing such a huge revenue stream. "The peanut is such a great snack and such an American snack," Martin Kanan, CEO of the King Nut Companies, an Ohio company that packages the peanuts served by most U.S. airlines, told the Associated Press. "What's next? Is it banning peanuts in ballparks?"

Continue reading Peanut-Free at 30,000 Feet?

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Slashfood: Big Apple BBQ Takes Manhattan


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New York City may be known for a plethora of culinary delights -- pizza, bagels, knishes and more -- but authentic regional BBQ has seldomly been counted in its repertoire. However, as the 8th Annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party took over Manhattan this past weekend, 17 famous pitmasters flooded in from BBQ capitals around the country to share their meaty goods with an estimated 100,000 New Yorkers.

Organized by Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group, Jazz Standard and Blue Smoke, the event featured BBQ meats galore, live music by acts like Bob Schneider, Carolyn Wonderland and Nick Curran & The Lowlifes, plus a slew of free cooking demos and culinary discussions in the Every Day with Rachael Ray seminar tents.

The event skewed toward beef and pork, as ribs and whole hog dominated the menu, most notably by the Texas Salt & Pepper Beef Ribs of New York's Blue Smoke pitmaster Ken Callaghan, the succulent, fall-off-the-bone sweet St. Louis-style ribs from Dallas's Baker's Ribs, and whole hog from both Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint in Nashville and The Pit in Raleigh, N.C.

Continue reading Big Apple BBQ Takes Manhattan

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Slashfood: New Food Magazine Counts on Home Cooks


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We've all heard the conventional wisdom: print media is doomed. Last fall's demise of Gourmet, shocking as it was, was only one of dozens of magazines that have folded in the past five years. But now a phoenix appears to be rising from those journalistic ashes -- and that phoenix is wearing an apron.

Meet Dash, a new magazine slated to debut this September (online to start, at A preview issue of the print version will follow in November, with regular monthly issues beginning in February. While Gourmet focused on cooking that was, well, gourmet, Dash promises food that is "simple," "fast," and last (but hopefully not least), "delicious."

Turns out that while many advertisers were fleeing magazines, food purveyors have been quietly buying up their ad space, according to The New York Times.

Continue reading New Food Magazine Counts on Home Cooks

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Slashfood: Anthony Bourdain on "Medium Raw" and Guilty Pleasures


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Photo: Harper Collins

Can you believe it's already been a decade since Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential was published? The wickedly funny tell-all gave people a peek into what goes on in a restaurant kitchen (generally sex, drugs and a lot of swearing). Now, Bourdain is back with a new book, 'Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook.'

Why did you decide to write this book?

AB: People kept coming up to me and telling me that they weren't eating fish on Mondays because of Kitchen Confidential. It's been ten years and I felt like I had to kind of update and correct the record and talk about how the business has changed and how my life has changed.

How has the business changed?
AB: It's not a loser profession anymore. There's a certain amount of prestige attached to it. A real future. It's smarter, more professional, and cleaner. A lot of the stuff I talk about in Kitchen Confidential would be unacceptable in kitchens these days.

More with Anthony Bourdain after the jump.

Continue reading Anthony Bourdain on "Medium Raw" and Guilty Pleasures

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Slashfood: Farm Dinner and Chèvre: Minneapolis Star-Tribune in 60 Seconds


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Guilty Carnivore: R.I.P. Jimmy Dean

R.I.P. Jimmy Dean

Jimmy Dean, sausage maker extraordinaire and country music troubadour, has passed.

To commemorate, it’s worth revisiting the best product feedback call of all time.

Slashfood: Bros Icing Bros


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Just when you thought drinking couldn't get any more ridiculous than pouring vodka in your eye, a drinking game involving the alcopop Smirnoff Ice comes along, complete with a website called Bros Icing Bros. The website suggests to "buy the most disgusting flavored Ice or a 24-oz Ice. Pineapple, mango, and grape are top of the list for the most gut wrenching, mind numbing, throw-up-in-your-mouth Smirnoff Ice flavors."

Read the rules as posted on the viral website (with grammar errors) after the jump.

Continue reading Bros Icing Bros

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Slashfood: Empanadas - Feast Your Eyes


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For the next three days we're going to feature Latin American flavors, starting with the empanada, one of those perfect pop-in-your mouth treats. It's hard not to love the baked turnovers of flaky pastry dough stuffed with your choice of beef, spicy chicken, Argentine sausage, shrimp, spinach, broccoli, tuna... or pretty much any combination you can think of.

Stevendepolo shot the photo of this dark and meaty combo of ground beef, hard-cooked eggs and black olives at a party to celebrate Chilean Independence Day (which is September 18). But we say, start eating those empanadas now! Try this Kitchen Daily recipe for a spicy beef variety with pipián (pumpkin seeds).

Become a member of the Slashfood Flickr pool for a shot of having your photos featured in Feast Your Eyes.

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Accidental Hedonist: Licorice's Dark Secret

Licorice's Dark Secret

I think it's safe to say that I'm a bit annoyed at a bit of information I've uncovered of late. I've gone forty-some odd years of my life with a particular world view, only to discover that this perspective is not only wrong, but had I taken even only the littlest of initiative, I would have uncovered this information years ago.

The news? Licorice doesn't actually taste like licorice.

Okay, okay, okay. Of course it takes like licorice...because that's what it is. What it doesn't taste like is anise, which is that deep, sweet/savory/herbal component that most of us equate to black licorice. So now I look back to all of the times my friends and I have taste fennel, or absinthe, and said it has a licorice-ness about it, we've been flat out wrong.

All of you long term licorice fans can feel free to mock the rest of us.

As you can see from the picture above, I received honest-to-god licorice root from some company or another. Taken from the Glycyrrhiza glabra, aka European Licorice. The Licorice drops, I have no idea which plant it came from, and in all honesty, I avoided tasting due to the alcohol added to the mix.

But I did make a tea (pictured below) from the roots, and got a first hand experience on what the root is supposed to taste like. The result? While there is a woody component to the taste, what licorice root mostly tastes of is sweetness. So much so that when I handed Tara the glass of tea for her to imbibe, she asked if I had to add honey to make it palatable. No, licorice root is sweet completely unto itself.

This new knowledge is even more embarrassing when I uncovered that the word 'licorice' spells it out exactly. According to, the word origin of liquorice comes from Old French licoresse, which itself comes from the Greek glukurrhiza or ‘sweet root’.

And here I was thinking that Glycyrrhiza glabra was some sort of incantation created by H. P. Lovecraft.

This new knowledge comes with new questions. Specifically: Why do some licorice makers seem to go overboard on Anise oil? I understand why it's there to begin with (mostly a cross between tradition and pharmacological reasons), but at some point, when the medical benefits of licorice candies came into doubt, somebody, somewhere said "Oh, what the hell." and decided what licorice really needed was an overdose of anise oil. Of course, there are also the folks who decided to add salt to the mix, so perhaps trying to find a logical reasoning for licorice ingredients is simply a lost cause.

So what does this mean to the average licorice consumer, i.e. me? Looking at the ingredient list is probably the best route to go. If you doesn't like the black licorice flavor, don't go blaming the licorice root. It's all Anise's fault. The higher Anise Oil is on the ingredient list increases the reaction from the consumer (either pro or con).

Kayotic Kitchen: Moroccan Tomato Salad

Kayotic Kitchen
<a href=""><img align="left" hspace="5" width="150" src="" class="alignleft wp-post-image tfe" alt="Moroccan Tomato Salad" title="" /></a>Treat your guests to this amazingly fragrant and flavorful Moroccan tomato salad during your next BBQ! They'll love it, mark my words.<img src="" height="1" width="1"/>

Farmgirl Fare: Sunday Dose of Cute: The Dangers of a Laundry Line

Quilt Attack 1

Quilt Attack 2

Quilt Attack 3

Quilt Attack 4

Quilt Attack 5

Quilt Attack 6

Quilt Attack 7

Quilt Attack 8

Quilt Attack 9
Five Pounds of Pure Terror

Innocent Little Kit Kat Kate
Who, Me?

That's our little Sarah Kit Kat Kate!

Want to see some safer laundry on the line?
1/2/06: Winter Color
5/6/09: The Lamb and the Laundry Line (a look back at Baby Cary)
2/18/10: A Nice Day

If you love clotheslines, be sure to check out Wash Wednesdays at GardenMama for lots of good, clean fun.

© Copyright 2010, the rated PG-13 for violence foodie farm blog where thankfully this isn't one of my vintage quilts (it's a queen size $20 Bed Bath & Beyond bargain I found several years ago and loved so much I bought two)—which is why I decided to take these photos rather than make her stop. That, and I was laughing too hard. Oh, and another danger of the laundry line? Birds. Need I say more?

Culinary in the Desert: Almond-Stuffed Chicken...

Almond-Stuffed Chicken...
I found yet another rogue recipe we made just before we left Minneapolis that we never got to talk about with all the flurry of activity that was happening. I was trying to get one of the last batches of chicken we had in the freezer used up and this classy Almond-Stuffed Chicken was the one that cleared out the rest of the white meat.

Depending on the recipe, stuffed chicken can often be a production, between flattening the meat, adding the filling and sealing it back up with ties or picks. While that isn't necessarily a bad idea at all, I wasn't in the mood for that much work tonight, which made this seven-ingredient dish that much more appealing. With a thin, sharp knife, we simply sliced a pocket into the thickest portion of each piece, then wiggled the knife around inside, making ample room for the filling. Be sure to stop before you reach any section that risks the knife poking through the meat to keep the filling from oozing out and more importantly, you don't poke yourself with the knife.

We stuffed the chicken with a cheesy blend of creamy Boursin cheese (swoon!) spread, toasted sliced almonds and chopped fresh parsley. Make your own blend or use whichever garlic and herb-flavored soft cheese you can find at the market. Place a spoonful of the mix into the pocket, then use your fingers on the outside of the meat to spread the filling around the roomy space you created. With a straightforward seasoning of salt and fresh ground black pepper on the outside, we slide the chicken into a pan with a knob's worth of butter and let them be until each side was golden and cooked through. With the filling, it can be a little deceptive determining when the chicken is done by feel - I'd suggest sticking a thermometer into the center just to make sure it has come up to 165 degrees to be safe.

Chicken breasts are notorious for some as coming across on the dry side without a ton of flavor behind them, but that tasteful, nutty cheese mixture permeated the meat from the inside to ensure it became anything but bland. Making use of a thermometer to check for doneness only aids in keeping the chicken juicy and tender, but if they do become slightly overcooked, the filling works as another safety net by plugging in extra moisture. I didn't have any problem with the filling coming out of the slit and into the pan, but if you're worried that might happen, you could secure it closed with a toothpick.

101 Cookbooks: Soup au Pistou

Soup au Pistou

Have you ever tried to pitch a tent in 50 knot winds? I can now say, with some authority, it's challenging. On somewhat of a whim, we tossed our gear in the car two days ago, pointed the car north, and set up camp along California's Sonoma coast. There are few places more stunning - golden meadows, craggy coastlines, rambling coastal trails for days. On some trips to this area we are met with dense fog, this time we were welcomed with blue skies, lingering sunsets, and wind that peeled your eyelids back. So, before I finish unpacking the car, I thought I'd share some photos and the recipe for the soup I made for our first night camping - lots of beans, vegetables, and stellette pasta. Tiny stars under the stars, with a good dollop of pistou for each bowl.

Soup au Pistou Recipe

However spontaneous a trip might be, a bit of preparation (even last minute) always pays dividends. I threw a few things together, late, the night before we left. Anytime you camp on the Northern California coast, it can get chilly, so I made a hearty soup (with whatever needed to be used up), froze it, and counted on it to do double-duty as ice blocks in the cooler the first day. I figured serving it with some bright green basily pistou would be just the thing. All we'd need to do is heat it up.

Soup au Pistou Recipe

The best part of camping in this part of California is the coastal walks. The most challenging part is sharing the campground. One chuckle-inducing, abalone-diving neighbor told me he set his alarm for 4:20 a.m. No joke. I can confirm his 4x4 blazed out of the campground well before 5 a.m. He returned hours later, three abalones in tote. They were heavy in my hands, the shells beautiful.

Soup au Pistou Recipe

In addition to the abalone, I also saw: the tiniest yellow wildflowers, no bigger than a pencil eraser; plenty of opportunistic blue jays; a group of teens celebrating their junior high graduation with a camping trip; seals lolling around on rocks; chubby yellow birds that lived in the cliffs and flew like bumble bees; an old Russian fort (!); patches of California poppies; a million stars against a black moonless sky.

Soup au Pistou Recipe

We pitched the tent so it would face this lovely meadow (below). This was at sunset on the first night we were there.

Soup au Pistou Recipe

As a side note, I should mention, for the second night I pre-cooked a bunch of soba noodles, then made a cilantro-serrano dressing with the mortar and pestle. We grilled tofu at the campsite, and tossed it all together. This worked out nicely - let me know if you're interested, I can post that recipe (and more pics) if you want. It would make a nice mid-week lunch as well.

If you try the soup, I hope you enjoy it. It has a bit of an ingredient list, but you can tweak it based on what you have on hand. For example, if I had carrots, I probably would have used them. Later in the summer, I might use fresh tomatoes in place of canned. I based the pistou on Paula Wolfert's recipe. Well, her recipe and what I had on hand at the time. Her pistou calls for grated tomatoes, and grated Mimolette or aged Gouda, I riffed on it with canned tomatoes and aged Gouda. Either way, delicious. We've been enjoying the leftover spread on thick slabs of grilled bread.

Continue reading Soup au Pistou...

Guilty Carnivore: Kai yaang

Kai yaang

Summer grilling season is upon us! Here’s to backyard grilling and bbq.

Kai Yaang (Thai grilled chicken)

  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds various chicken parts, or a whole chicken, halved
  • 8 or more minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
  • As much minced lemongrass as you like. I like a lot (like a 1/2 cup or more!)*
  • 6-8 thai bird chilies, minced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
  • Half a bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon

* Fubonn (and many Vietnamese markets) sell finely minced lemongrass in plastic tubs in the freezer section. They are a time savor, and the industrial cut is finer than anything you can reproduce at home. Highly recommended

Place chicken parts in a bowl. Add all the marinade ingredients and mix well. Marinade for at least four hours or overnight.
Start a charcoal grill in your kettle grill, keeping the hot coals on one half.

Once the coals are going, grill the chicken for 10-15 minutes over hot coals, turning often, until a nice color develops.


Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill. Turn every so often, and cook for another 20-30 minutes. This is backyard grilling—use your backyard grillSense. Move parts back to the hot side as needed.

Serve with sweet chili dipping sauce.

La Tartine Gourmande: Cherries and Poppies &#8212; Le temps des cerises et des coquelicots

Hello everyone,

France did not leave me empty handed. I found fields full of poppies, grass with beautiful shades of green and cherry trees carrying bright fruit. I found back the French countryside I love so much.

We’ve just returned to the States. After an amazing trip, being able to see Irish and French family and friends. But we’ve also had to suddenly face and deal with a sad and painful event of life.

Soon, I will be back. When my energy is back and my spirit cheered.

A bientôt…

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Steamy Kitchen: recipes and cooking: Pork Tenderloin with Warm Grilled Tomato Salsa

Pork Tenderloin with Warm Grilled Tomato Salsa

Some people say that its hard pressed to find a meat leaner than chicken breast, and thankfully they are wrong. Dinners at our house would be as boring as the fourth hour of a chess game if this was true.

The meat that might surpass you as being just as lean as chicken breast is pork tenderloin. No, silly, i didn’t say pork belly or bacon, but the tenderloin, prized for it’s leanness and versatility. For you steak-lovers, it’s like the filet mignon of the pig, except ten times cheaper than it’s cow counterpart.

Buy an entire tenderloin, unwrap it, season with salt and pepper, throw it in the oven and cook for 20 minutes or until center reaches 150F (or blush pink.) While the pork is cooking, make this grilled tomato salsa from celeb chef  Marcus Samuelsson’s New American Table cookbook. Dinner’s done, totally healthy, checkmate.

Grilling the tomato for the “salsa” is genius – this warm sauce can be used for so many different applications, grilled chicken, pan-fried tofu, tossed in a salad, over fish, pan-fried pork chops, well – you get the point. You can do this on your outdoor grill or inside on a grill pan, like any of these (which is what we did for this recipe)

I’m a lucky gal, especially in this photo with Top Chef Winner Hosea Rosenberg!

We get to work together along with nutrition goddess Mitzi Dulan and Food Network’s $10 dollar dinners Melissa d’Arabian on the consumer advisory panel for the pork board (who represents both small and large farmers). We braved the Iowan winter earlier this year to meet up and eat. and drink. and eat. and drink some more.








$3,700 vs. $350 camera – which camera took which photo?

A fun little game! Same dish, 2 cameras and 2 photos. Can you tell which photo was taken from the point and shoot camera?





Okay now on to the recipe!


Farmgirl Fare: Friday Dose of Cute: Just Hatchin' Out

Newly Hatched 1

Newly Hatched 2
Peep! Peep! Peep!

Fluffed up and cuted out photos of these three in their new grassy green digs (a chicken keeping experiment!) are coming soon. In the meantime, if you desperately need to see more chick pics right away:

© Copyright 2010, the cracked up foodie farm blog where this year it seems that every time we turn around it's Chick Day again (much to some the delight of one of us)—and the reason these three look a little confused (besides the fact that the chick on the left is literally just running out of its egg) is because seconds before snapping these photos, I unceremoniously lifted off their warm and fluffy cover, aka Mama. Not to worry, everyone was happily reunited lickity split.

Culinary in the Desert: Sausage, Egg and Asparagus Pizza...

Sausage, Egg and Asparagus Pizza...
Sausage and eggs... you'll find that duo fairly often as our breakfast, most notably on the weekends, but what's a good way to work them into dinner, in a not-so-traditional fashion? Toss it all onto a pizza and call it dinner, of course! We did just that for our Friday Pizza Night by making this Sausage, Egg and Asparagus Pizza.

For a fairly thin crust, we blitzed together the twelve-ounce version of our favorite whole-wheat pizza dough - though, if you want a chewier base, bump it up to the pound recipe to give yourself more bulk to work with. We did go the extra mile and roll the sides of the dough onto itself, building a thick ring around the edge - I suggest you do the same and you'll see why in a minute. Since the toppings are going to be fairly moist on this pizza, we gave the stretched out round a few minutes in the oven to give it a head start - not too long, just until the bottom begins to crisp and is lightly golden.

While the crust was occupied in the oven, we moved on to the toppings by browning a couple links of sweet Italian sausage, crumbling them with a sturdy wooden spatula into meaty nuggets as they cooked. With the sausage scooped out to drain, sliced shallots went in next, followed shortly by sliced fresh asparagus to briefly feel the heat, leaving the spears with a civilized bite.

You'll notice we haven't mentioned a sauce at all and that's because there isn't one with this pizza - after scattering the vegetables and sausage all over the top of the crust, what holds those ingredients together, in spite of said sauce, is quite simply a bowl of eggs, scrambled together with a dose of salt and fresh ground black pepper. This is why the rim around the crust is a good idea... think of it as extra insurance so the eggs won't even dare think about flowing over in the oven!

Topped off with a smattering of shredded Fontina and sharp white cheddar, the pizza goes back into the oven for a second bake, which sets the eggs to a puffy, moist curd and melts the cheeses into a gooey slick. Like a big breakfast spread, assembled together on a crisp, edible canvas, the combination of the soft eggs, mild onion-y shallots and sweet sausage did feel a bit heavy at first, but with the bright, tender-crisp asparagus breaking through the richness, the pizza balanced itself out quite nicely. If you're havin' a cravin' for bacon, substitute a few smoky strips instead of the sausage (or go for a gluttonous glory with both!) and cook the shallots in a bit of the leftover drippings. Crumble the bacon and add it when you would have done the sausage.

Ezra Pound Cake: Squash Ribbon Salad with Goat Cheese and Toasted Pine Nuts

Squash Ribbon Salad with Goat Cheese and Toasted Pine Nuts

When Jeff has to work overtime, I like to make the best of the situation by catching up on some writing, watching some junky TV ( like “Losing It with Jillian” and “Ruby”) and eating vegetables that Jeff wouldn’t touch with Andy Dick’s tongue.

This week’s lucky vegetables? Squash and zucchini! I ate two of each in two days via this Squash Ribbon Salad with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts, and the experience was squash-a-licious.


It’s good. Really good. And if you’re looking for a new summer side dish, this could be the one.

Continue reading: Squash Ribbon Salad with Goat Cheese and Toasted Pine Nuts

© 2010 Rebecca Crump. All rights reserved.

Accidental Hedonist: Travel Advice Sought and The Next Upcoming Trip

Travel Advice Sought and The Next Upcoming Trip

Over the course of the next year, there will be four trips of varying lengths. The goal is to, if not immerse myself in confection cultures of Europe and America, then at least dip a toe or two into it.

In two weeks time, I head out on trip #1, where the itinerary looks something like this -

  • Edinburgh
  • Blackpool
  • Bristol
  • London
  • Paris
  • Cologne

Along this journey, I have several interviews lined up, as well as some person goals and plans that are candy related (which I hope will translate into interesting anecdotes). Included in this list of plans include a stop in Cadbury World, a quick stop in Pontefract, indulging in high end chocolate in Paris, and a visit to the Chocolate Museum in Cologne. There is also an overarching plan of finding the "best" sweet shop in the United Kingdom.

Considering all of this, I realize that it's quite possible that I may be missing out on something. That's where you, dear reader, come into the equation. For those of you familiar with the areas mentioned above, my question to you is thus: Is there something or someone related to the candy/sweets/confection world that I absolutely should visit? Do you know of someone in the industry that might be willing to be interviewed? Is there a sweets shop that I have to put on my itinerary? In short, what would you do if you were in my position.

Defend your suggestion in the comments of this here post, and if time and logistics permit, I will seek out whomever or whatever your idea. Indeed, it's quite likely that I'll end up posting about it on this here site.

- - - - - - - - - -

As a side note - I do intend on providing some real time commentary on my travels via Twitter through Gowalla. If you would like to follow me on either of those two socialnetworking applications, now is as good as a time as any to friend me on those networks.

delicious:days: The salad it all began with - Writing another cookbook

Last year, pretty much around the same time, we had a long meeting at my editor’s place. The sun was shining, all attendees were bursting of enthusiasm, and the location – a spacious shadowy balcony overlooking the neighborhood of Au-Haidhausen – was the ultimate place one could wish for on a hot summer day. It was the kick-off meeting for a new cookbook project.

Read the rest of The salad it all began with - Writing another cookbook

Copyright © 2010 delicious:days. Please contact

Farmgirl Fare: Thursday Dose of Cute: Sharing the Shade

Sharing the Shade
This Photo Cracks Me Up

Want to get to know this Great Pyrenees livestock guardian better? You'll find lots more pictures of our beloved Crazy Daisy here. And there's a whole flock of lambing season photos here.

© Copyright 2010, the totally protected foodie farm blog where sometimes it's hard to tell just who is watching over whom.

Chocolate & Zucchini: Two Treats for Bread Bakers

Two Treats for Bread Bakers

52 Loaves + Yakitate!! Japan

Bread baking is one of those activities that can quickly become obsessive, like knitting or playing red dead redemption. It's not really something you can remain casual about, not if you want to improve your skills, so you find yourself combing through forum discussions, bookmarking blogs and websites, buying books -- anything to satisfy your thirst for knowledge and inspiration.

I say it's fine to embrace such a harmless obsession -- unless you start to ignore your infant's cries because your loaf needs shaping -- and I'd like to share two cool things to fuel it.

William Alexander's 52 Loaves

Subtitled "One Man's Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust," 52 Loaves is a memoir that tells the story of a middle-aged man who decides to bake a loaf a week during one year, to try and recreate the superlative loaf he's once tasted.

I received it as a review copy, and I admit I was dubious at first -- it had the potential of reading like a self-important, overblown tale -- but that's probably because I'd never read anything by William Alexander before: it turns out he's a funny, relatable, and (sometimes painfully) honest writer.

Divided into 52 chapters, the book documents the baking and life lessons he learns over as many weeks, from his inaugural doorstop loaves to his first attempts at sourdough, from building his own wood-fire oven to growing his own wheat and milling his own flour (!), and finally to the apex of his story, an unexpectedly moving episode I'm not about to spoil for you.

It is an engaging and instructive read with great rhythm, and if you've been on your own quest for good home-baked bread, I think you'll find it as engrossing as I did. It is the book I was reading in Japan and well, I blame William Alexander for making me miss Mount Fuji while riding the bullet train.

Continue reading "Two Treats for Bread Bakers"
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Accidental Hedonist: Mexican Coke is Everywhere

Mexican Coke is Everywhere

Over the course of the past few months, I've seen Mexican Coke (also known as Coke made with real cane sugar rather than High Fructose Corn Syrup) in several major grocery chains here in Seattle, including Safeway, QFC (Kroger's), Thriftway, and of course CostCo.

Now CostCo isn't much of a surprise because they've been selling the stuff for years. But the other chains are a bit of a surprise, mostly because a few years back, Coca-Cola was threatening lawsuits and claiming that importing Mexican Coca-Cola was akin to bootlegging (which is hysterical in its own right, as bootlegging is very much prohibition-era tactic of hiding a bottle or flask of booze in one's boot, which itself evolved into a meaning making and/or transporting an illegal beverage. Bootlegging a legal soda? Pure hyperbole.)

It's now four years later and suddenly major grocery chains have access to Mexican Coke? Either the major grocery chains are knowingly going against the wishes of Coke's corporate line, or Atlanta has decided to lighten up a bit. If it's the latter, my question is this - why don't they just admit defeat and start making a sugar cane version of Coca-Cola?

Kayotic Kitchen: Reflection Control

Kayotic Kitchen
<a href=""><img align="left" hspace="5" width="150" src="" class="alignleft wp-post-image tfe" alt="flare" title="" /></a>Determining where they are and controlling those pesky reflections is probably one of the most important steps to take when you're into food photography!<img src="" height="1" width="1"/>

Guilty Carnivore: Pho An Sandy

Pho An Sandy


I’ve been going to this place for nearly eight years, back when it was Pho Oregon “West” (despite being only a mile from the other Pho Oregon at NE 82nd Ave).


The interior is spartan. You are automatically rationed the standard beverages.

It took a name change, and a format change, plus Extra MSG’s vetting of the assorted grilled meat platter, that got me thinking about anything but pho at this place.


But why would I? I’ve long contended this location on NE Sandy, when it existed as a namesake to the NE 82nd version, had the better bowl of soup of the two doppelgängers. Since the obvious switch of ownership (and name, and staff, who are now dressed in lovely white uniforms) a few years back, I had no reason to really look past the first turn of the first menu page, the page where various permutations of pho are listed in perfunctory uniformity, the same list xeroxed and sampled by every pho joint from Chula Vista to Bellingham.


The salad platter at Pho An Sandy, as it was back when it was Pho Oregon, is unparalleled in Portland. You will always get more than enough <em>ngo gai</em>, aka culantro aka sawtooth herb, no matter how lily white your skin or accent may be.


The broth at Pho An Sandy I believe is one of our city’s most well balanced, though—as with any soup joint with high turnover that is constantly bootstrapping their stockpot—it can vary in the amount of spice, clarity, beefiness, sweetness, etc.


The braised meats (chin, nam) are very consistent.

All in all, a very excellent pho, served quickly and without fuss. What more could you ask for? Well, Pho An Sandy also has a wide and varied menu that expands beyond the perfunctory soup offerings.


Including this “dac biet” mixed grill platter, which features bo la lot (beef wrapped in betel leaves), grilled lemongrass pork (topped with sauteed shallots and chopped peanuts)…


…grilled sugarcane shrimp…


…and nem nuong (pork patty/sausage)



As is Pho An Sandy’s MO, the salad platter that accompanied this impressive phalanx of deliciously grilled meats was generous, overflowing with spearmint, perilla, rau ram, cucumber, and lettuce.


The general idea with Vietnamese meats is to roll your own (using the carefully constructed quenelles of rice noodles served with the meats as a starch foundation), thus you’re given a bowl of warm water and dried rice paper sheets…


…and a bowl of nuoc cham dipping sauce (always add a dollop of the fresh chili garlic sauce on the table—you’ll be thankful).


A delicious strip of nem nuong about in pre-rolled state.


I can roll a fat blunt.


Come to daddy, sugarcane shrimp.


Pho An Sandy

6236 Northeast Sandy Boulevard
Portland, OR 97213
(503) 281-2990

All Posts: Tasty (Kitchen) Tennis

Tasty (Kitchen) Tennis

Come join us for Tasty (Kitchen) Tennis! Find more information at This round is Tofu for Dessert!

Kayotic Kitchen: Southern Magnolia Minerals

Kayotic Kitchen
<a href=""><img align="left" hspace="5" width="150" src="" class="alignleft wp-post-image tfe" alt="SMM" title="" /></a>Once you try mineral make up, you'll never look back. Southern Magnolia Minerals is giving away a DYI custom kit to one of the Kayotic Kitchen readers!<img src="" height="1" width="1"/>

Accidental Hedonist: History of Candy: Honey Pt. 2 - Whither candy?

History of Candy: Honey Pt. 2 - Whither candy?

First, an important distinction - While mankind has only domesticated bees for about 7,000 years now, we've been eating honey for much, much longer. So it isn't as if honey just "poppped" onto the agricultural scene. For all intents and purposes, it was always part of our diet...if we could get our hands on it. So honey has been around for quite some time; domesticated bees less so (relatively speaking of course). Eva Crane, in her book A Book of Honey, hypothesizes that "It is likely that honey was one of the first things people talked about soon after they could express their thoughts in words." Her evidence for this is that the words for "honey" are remarkably similar throughout the many different languages of the ancient eras, indicating that honey was known by name at a very early stage in the development of human language.

So, what were the uses of honey, and more specifically, how do they relate to candy?

A phrase your likely to hear a lot of for the first part of candy history, the answer is "well, we don't know for sure." Commodities were often lauded and literally praised. But products made from those commodities were less documented. Here's what we know: Honey was used as a sweetener, an ingredient in cooking, a base for alcoholic drinks, medical treatments, and cosmetics. Due to its prevalence in all things, it achieved a special status that resulted in it being deemed as "holy" and thus used in many religious services and rituals - from celebrating everything from births to deaths and everything in between. Obviously different religions had different takes on the sweetener, but no where in human history is there a culture that thinks "Honey?? Pffft. No thank you. It's the tool of the devil!"

The medical applications for honey is notable, as it helps establish the tie between sweeteners and medicine, a marriage that still exists even to this day. Ancient Egypt went hard core on honey, especially in regards to medicine, as it has been mentioned as an ingredient in over 500 different remedies of the 900 known. Throughout history it's been used in everything from ointments, to an addition to whiskey in order to treat a cold.

So what about candy? Well, it would have depended upon what ingredients were available to any given person. I have yet to find any documentation stating if the product were rare or ubiquitous. Let's presume the latter, merely because of how important it was in religions (the thinking here is that if it was a luxury, it would have been rare, and thus not important enough for the various religions to make note of it.)

I put forth as evidence the Greek confection known as pasteli. Note the picture below (which I ganked from Market Manila):

It is the very basic of confections, sesame seeds and honey, boiled together. Sesame seeds have been gathered as far back as 4000 BC, and it is not outside the realm of possibility that someone who had access to honey, an excess amount of edible seeds (sesame or otherwise), and an adequate amount of heating, could have figured out this concoction.

The unknown question is - when? That we do not know. Herodotus mentioned it in his writings, so we know it was around during his time (484 BC –  425 BC), but it was likely around a long time before that.

By no means was this the only sort of confection out there. As I will show in upcoming posts, there were many confections made of honey, some of which are still recognizable today, with variations ending up in several popular modern day candy bars. But more on that later.

Note: It's important to remember that these confections were looked upon, not necessarily as a treat, or rather, not as an "empty-calorie" treat that we hold candy to today. "Eating as entertainment rather than sustenance" and "empty-calories" are relatively new ideas, with the later being a concept introduced only in the past two centuries. I'll expand on those later, but it's an important concept to understand when looking at foods in the past.

Farmgirl Fare: Wednesday Dose of Cute: Dozing Dolores

Dozing Dolores

Dozing Daphne
And Dozing Daphne

Why have so many donkeys? Pictures say it better than words:
First meet Donkey Doodle Dandy (aka Dan), the little guy who started it all
You can get to know Dan a lot better here
10/17/08: Baby Love?

4/18/10: On the Trail of Treats (and why cute keeps winning out over food)
Still haven't seen enough? Even more donkey photos are here and here.

© Copyright 2010, the well rounded foodie farm blog where both Daphne and young Esmeralda are expecting (Esmeralda's pregnancy was an unfortunate accident—the result of Dan leaping over a tall fence in the pursuit of passion), and there's nothing cuter than a baby donkey—except two baby donkeys!

Homesick Texan: Honey lavender ice cream

I missed the bluebonnets this year. This makes me sad as I understand it was a banner year for our state flower. But I do have a few trips to Texas planned this summer, so I hope to see some color,... <div class="feedflare"><a href=""><img src="" border="0" /></a> <a href=""><img src="" border="0" /></a> <a href=""><img src="" border="0" /></a> <a href=""><img src="" border="0" /></a> <a href=""><img src="" border="0" /></a> <a href=""><img src="" border="0" /></a> <a href=""><img src="" border="0" /></a> <a href=""><img src="" border="0" /></a> <a href=""><img src="" border="0" /></a></div> <img src="" height="1" width="1" />

Farmgirl Fare: Tuesday Farm Photos: Amish Neighbors and an Easy Orange Cake for Strawberry Season

Amish Wagon
Don't You Just Love this Wagon?
Several Amish families moved to this area two years ago, and in my opinion we're all the luckier for it. All of our new Amish neighbors that I've met have been very friendly, and they've already brought much to our rural community.
There are three basket makers and a furniture maker (who we might have build us a bed for the new living quarters). A couple of Amish women sell homemade baked goods on the square in town. Two brothers who live on adjacent fams about 10 miles down the road (and across the street from the donkey peddling cowboy) built us a gorgeous new sheep barn last fall to replace the one that was falling down, and a giant new haybarn in April to replace the one that was really falling down (pictures coming of both new buildings one of these days, I swear). The wonderful rough cut siding on the sheep barn (which you can see here) came from the Amish sawmill down the road.

One of those carpenter brothers sets up a stand next to his house each summer and sells organic produce from his family's large garden. They grow wonderful sweet corn, and I think I ended up buying most of their early tomato harvest last year, since I didn't get my tomato plants in the ground until (please don't try this at home) July. The stand is run on the honor system so you can shop even if they're not home; the reasonable prices are posted, and you just leave your money in the coffee can on the table, making change if you need it.

Why I Love Our Amish Neighbors

Picturesque horse drawn buggies now dot the landscape, and we get to see cool things like the wagon pictured above. I'm really enjoying the cultural diversity. But best of all? This time of year, three of the Amish families sell organic strawberries.

Easy Orange Loaf Cake with Garden Strawberries

My favorite way to eat strawberries is standing outside next to the berry patch. My second favorite way is alongside a slice of this moist, not overly-sweet Orange Loaf Cake that I first wrote about two years ago and have been enjoying ever since (it's also very nice with blueberries). If you feel like going all out—which I highly recommend—then serve your orange cake and berrries with big scoops of some really good vanilla ice cream, preferably for breakfast.

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Delicious No Matter What the Spelling

Eating seasonally essentially means that you devour your fill and then some so you won't desire that food again until next year. The two of us managed to wolf down 13 quarts of fresh strawberries over the past several weeks. Our craving has definitely been satisfied.

More from our Amish neighbors:
7/30/08: Super Market

More sweet treats you might enjoy:
Cookies and Bars

Muffins and Scones
Cranberry Christmas Scones (tasty any time of year)
100% Whole Grain Bran Muffins (four different flavors)

Cakes, Tarts, and More

© Copyright 2010, the sweet and juicy foodie farm blog where this is the first year I didn't harvest any strawberries from my own berry patch (due to severe neglect, wet spring weather, and amazingly vigorous weeds), and as disappointing as that was, it sure was nice not having to worry about those strawberry ravaging turtles!

Culinary in the Desert: Vanilla-Chai Icebox Shortbread Cookies...

Vanilla-Chai Icebox Shortbread Cookies...
Wednesday has become our day of choice for Treat Day, but this week we had to shift it around a bit, moving it up to today as Jeff is going to be working from home tomorrow. However, this meant I had to get into gear yesterday to make sure I had enough time to get these Vanilla-Chai Icebox Shortbread Cookies baked! That's also why I didn't get our dinner posted yesterday... too busy with cookies!

The dough begins with butter and granulated sugar, which would be expected, but we also poured a touch of golden honey into the mix for a kiss of extra sweetness and warmth. To get a full-bodied range of flavors packed in, these intensely-spiced cookies are peppered with pumpkin pie spice, ginger and allspice, along with an exotic note from a small spoonful of cardamom. You can use prepared pumpkin pie spice if you already have a jar, but you don't need to run out to buy some if you have a stocked spice pantry - I usually just blend together cinnamon, fresh grated nutmeg, ginger and clove. As far as how much of each, the ratio that I've fallen for most is using half as much ginger as cinnamon, then a quarter as much of the nutmeg and clove.

As if that wasn't enough, a full vanilla bean was ravaged, taking its thousands of aromatic seeds and adding them in for an almost audible floral background that lingered on the tongue. When the dough is completely combined, it should be on the softer side, but should not be very sticky - if you touch the dough, your finger should come away clean. Split in two, the dough is then shaped, wrapped and stashed into the refrigerator to firm it up enough to slice into tidy rectangles.

You don't have to make the cookies rectangles by the way; roll the dough up into a log for round buttons or shape the log into a square for a boxy treat. If you do go for the round route, here's a tip we've given out before to help the dough keep its cylindrical shape - when you have the dough wrapped up, cut a slit down the middle of a paper towel tube and slip the dough inside. The sturdiness of the tube will give the dough just enough structure to stay round and not flatten out.

Because they are on the smaller side, I was able to fit 20 cookies comfortably on a regular half sheet pan to bake, making the time it took to bake them not nearly as long as I thought. They do spread a tad as they bake, but as long as you give them roughly 1/2" between, the cookies will be fine. Baked until each vanilla-studded cookie was lightly golden around their edges, we made sure they had time enough to cool before we added one final touch.

While the cookies stand on their own taste wise, they do look a little plain and ordinary - to give them a leg up in the looks department, a snazzy drizzle made from confectioners' sugar, vanilla and a splash of milk was lazily drawn over each. And for just another bit of extravagance, I did scrape a half of another vanilla bean and whisked the seeds in. Jeff and I both loved the texture of the cookies - crisp, yet tender, with a slight crumbliness that had us reaching for cookie after cookie (and thankfully it made plenty to go around!).