Thursday, March 31, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
My Facebook Post, 30 March 2011, 10.30 am:
"Late last night, watching Deadliest Warrior, Doritos ad featuring a guy who licked other people's fingers, pants, etc. gave me nightmares... Bon appétit to the rescue!" CHOCOLATE . COVERED. CHEETOS.
Featured in Bon Appétit Magazine's "Kookery" Column, a genius by the name of Cereal Baker:
In which spirit, Jedi Jasmin and I required (notice my arm being adequately pre-twisted to the suggestion) an expedition to Penzey's Spices in Menlo Park. A crucial element of the Magical Meatloaf recipe eluded our memories and as we scrambled to find a JoC Jedi on our contact list within reach of their tome, the Penzey's Goddess says "OH! Well, we just have one here at the desk!" Penzey's is my very own heaven. You may labour under the notion that this is a boutique in a historically higher-income area code.
The voice in your head? I quote it: "TCHAH! a high-end SPICE store????" Seriously. Without diminishing the quality of the shop, the knowledgeable staff and the cornucopia of herbs and spices, this is like buying wholesale from a spice merchant. Take note the next time you stop at your supermarket and price the following--write it down: Cinnamon, Cumin, Basil, Ginger, Pepper and two of your own favourites. Check Penzey's online (they were originally mail order) and notice the precise size/price comparison and begin to apply those differences to the rest of your spice drawer. They do nothing else but buy high-quality stuff you will actually use for ridiculous prices. Worth the drive.
We noticed, upon exiting, a sweeties shop, Sugar Shack. I ran across the street so fast there is no lovely photo of the shop front.
After I ravaged the inside, I snapped one tasteful shot of the lovely front counter:
It is an utterly charming confection of a place, slender and pink as a little girl's birthday chocky box with crisp white gingerbread and latticework framing the candy cart, the back counter and the open pick-mix bins of sours, gummies, licorices, malt balls and fruit slices.
First, I am a Candy Freak. If candy is your zen, you must read Candy Freak by Steve Almond, a fellow OCD from Palo Alto, whose loving yet obsessive pilgrimage several years ago to the last family-owned candy makers in America made my tiny toes tingle. This is a man who, upon finding dark chocolate Kit Kats (check CandyDirect.com) were being tested in his market proceeded to find and buy cases of them and hide them in his house. Props to that, my Chocolate-Coated Homey.
A second, more historic look at the rise of American candy making is Emperors of Chocolate, which is fascinating and focuses mainly on the Hershey and Mars families, but is noticeably lacking in A) Pink and White Striped Awnings and Gummy Worms; or B) Tours of Jelly Belly and Annabelle Lee factories where things might be tasted while the foreman looks the other way.
For Science--SCIENCE!--I obtained a sampling of several types of candy for review:
1) Licorice Pinwheel: I hate black licorice. Always have, as well as root beer. So here's a dark black pinwheel, perfect and shiny, I'll just have to bite the bull-- I LOVE BLACK LICORICE!!! This is thick and slightly salty--maybe floral but savoury at the same time? It's just divine and redeems Licorice as an art form as candy should be, from the weird funky-tasting stuff from the blue-and-white striped box. WIN.
2) Raspberry Licorice Chunk: Extremely fruity, possibly a bit too soft and not chewy enough. Definitely some citric acid in there for bite. GOOD.
3) Easter Corn: I also LOVE Candy Corn. This is also open stock, and yummy. And very very pretty. Which is, well, pretty, but not so good for a Vampire Effect, unless you're trying out for the lead in the school production of Bunnicula, Vampire Bunny. BWOOOHAHA.
4) Toffee Dark Chocolate Pecan Bark: OoooooOOOOooooohhhhhhyaaaaaaahhhh. Salty. Sweet. Darkly developed toffee. Perfectly balanced toffee/chocolate/nuts. Just crumbly enough, so none of that Dentistry Panic. Seriously, in my adult life I have accrued over $10k in out-of-pocket Dental Co-Pay, so a beautifully cooked toffee that doesn't threaten my 401K is: MAGIC.
5) Milk Chocolate Turtle: This is an in-store confection. Light to the bite, not a lot of resistance, despite it's thickness. Also there doesn't seem to be enough caramel presence, the main impression is really the pecan, and a bit disappointing. A turtle should tie you up with dark burnt salty caramel and coat your lips with well-tempered chocolate. BAH.
6) Bounty Bar: From the UK. They have a shelf of UK chocolates, and there are many places on the internet that will explain/expound/complain/compound the differences between US and UK candy. They're different. Wahoo. It's what makes the world cool. First, it is akin to a Mounds bar, and Everyone has an opinion on Coconut. If yours is Wahoo!, then I will further posit the Bounty bar is more pleasantly coconutty in terms of tenderness and natural flavour. It is slightly less sweet, the chocolate is in the UK taste, so slightly smoother and slightly sweeter. I love it.
7) Maltesers: Toss those Whoppers, what you don't know you're missing in a Malt Ball is a slight sour-milk component that Maltesers get better than the Whoppers. And the chocolate thing again. It's just a better combination.
We departed downtown Menlo with a bag chock full of Penzey's goodies and candy, whereupon I realised it was nearly 3pm and I had neglected lunch. Toffee Bark contains Dairy and Nut Protein, for Your Information. Tell your mother The Joy of Cooking Fairy says so.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
As Nutty as I am, the following alien will guest star in the next series of recipe posts, but as by way of introduction, we saw Paul Sunday night at the Camera 7 Pruneyard in Campbell, and while I’m corralling the final bits of the Cooking Magazine Project and cleaning for a house guest tonight, my train of thought is chugging away...
Engine: If you are in the area and we are friends/acquaintances AND you have viewed the trailer at least twice AND you are SURE you think it might be your kind of funny, I will happily hop on down and see it with each and every one of you. Individually, even. Multiple times. It's hilarious, and has everything--ET, Star Wars, Alien, Predator, Alien Vs. Predator, Close Encounter, even Jaws fergawshsakes. And Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Two Geniuses, One brilliant team. And Simon Pegg is a Ginger. Did I mention he played Scottie in the Star Trek Redux?
Baggage Car: Having just moved down here to San Jose/ Willow Glen/ Campbell area a year ago, and most of that having been a whirlwind of circumstance, it feels like I've only just begun to explore my own neighbourhoods. Jedi Jasmin has lived here forever, and has always gone to the Camera 7 at the Pruneyard shopping center. While I had mostly patronised larger plexes--most recently the delightful newer AMC Cupertino Square (Vallco to the natives)--we never ventured this far south for movies. Well, not never. Back in the highschool days, I came to the Camera 3 theatre in downtown with a Bellarmine Boy to see 1000 Pieces of Gold. Around the same time there was an animation festival featuring an Italian take on Fantasia with a sequence of starving animals dragging through a desert to Bolero that haunts me to this day.
So this is a true local theatre, small like the Hacienda Cinema in Sunnyvale, CA (my very own first job in 1989). And they have a savings card! Buy 10 movie passes for $60; applicable to all movies and they get first-run movies. Their popcorn is fresh, popped by a 2011 version teenage Laura who will have to hand clean that sucker 15 minutes after the last show starts. Armburnsarmburnsarmburns. If I ever see a Now Hiring sign, my inner 15-year-old is filling out an application. Only drawback is, they do not carry Goobers.
Dining Car: Cooking Magazine Project! Several years ago, I began subscribing to Cooking Light, which has been mostly very cool. I twitch a lot at the sheer amount of “boneless-skinless-chicken-breast-ness” and sauces made of skim milk and flour which I have given more than a couple ol’ college tries and the result being, to quote myself, “BLECH”. I tend to side with Micheal Pollan in believing that the way to nutrition is to turn tail at the first sign of “Nutritional Claims” and run for Real Food. However, there are a LOT of really good ideas in magazines, but the groaning stacks upstairs are not so named for mere whimsy’s sake. So I have taken four years amassed volumes since the last project,
sorted through and culled the stuff I wanted:
put them all in sheet protectors:
and then into the binders!
Caboose: So, as promised last time, a recipe. And some face-up, on my part: BREAD!
NOTE: This will be a freebee, as I have found this 'new-style bread' basic recipe a zillion places, then I will exhort you to toddle into your local bookshop to lay hands on "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe François. This loaf is right up front. The rest of the book is so much delicious bread that is as easy to do that you will NEED their tasty tasty knowledge. Plus, they totally have my number-- I have admitted to never baking bread before because I believed it was soooo hard and that whole yeast thing was soooo confusing...as the authors state: “Yeast...Here’s another area where obsessing about an ingredient can take all the fun out of baking.” Who’s obsessive? Me?
You have Jedi Jasmin to thank for my enlightenment, and away we go:
“Artisan Free-Form Loaf” Makes four 1-pound loaves
-3 liquid-measure cups lukewarm water-- test it over your hand, it has to feel warmer than yerownself, about 100F.
-1.5 tablespoons granulated yeast (buy the jar, keep it in the fridge)
-1.5 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
-6.5 dry-measure cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method
-Cornmeal for the pizza peel*
- Warm water,
- Add yeast and salt to water in a 5-qt bowl-- we did this in a stand mixer bowl cuz it makes the whole process go like stink.
- Mix in the flour. Kneading is not necessary, just dump it into the water in the mixing bowl, SLOWLY raise the speed of your mixer fitted with the DOUGH HOOK, or mix it with a wooden spoon in a big ol’ bowl. Do this just until the dough is pulling away from the sides of the bowl as one happy ball, then STOP! In the name of loave!
- Rising and Containment: You can stick it in a bowl and cover with a towel for at least 2 hours then start using it. THEN: We tend to keep ours in blubbermaid not-air-tight-lid plastic food storage containers in the fridge, where it will keep for about 2 weeks. This makes 4 portions, so using a square or rectangular container means just grabbing a quarter and baking.
- Bakers Away! DO NOT KNEAD. Give it what’s called a Gluten Cloak. Grab a chunk of dough from your container and place on a smooth cutting board (or pizza peel if you have one) that you have dusted with cornmeal, flour or whatever your recipe calls for. Do cornmeal here, it makes a nice bottom crust. Take your chunk and lightly stretch the surface so it’s smooth alllll the way round the top and sides and the bottom looks like a sea anemone. It doesn’t matter, it’ll fix itself. Let it sit, set a timer for **20 MINUTES**.
- When the timer goes off, set your oven to **450F**, place your bread stone (I happen to have a flat cast iron griddle that worked well) in the middle rack of the oven and set your timer for another **20 MINUTES**. Dust with flour and SLASH! in a nice pattern, hopefully not entirely evocative of Freddy Kruger.
- When that timer goes off, place the loaf on the stone in the hot oven. Place a metal pan filled 2/3 with water in the lower rack of the oven, close the door and set the timer for **30MINUTES**.
- Remove and place on a wire rack, where it will snap and crackle as it settles. This is normal. Deny the urge to tear into the fresh, hot loaf like a wolverine, you will burn yourself, and means you will not have nearly enough for:
- a) Almond Butter and Fig Spread Sammich b) Liverwurst, Caper and Dijon Sammich, c) Chicken Salad, Mustard and Fresh Cracked Black Pepper Sammich. Among other things.
I have now conquered the Bread Bogey Man, recipe’d you and got all OCD magazine filed. As you can see, I need a break, so really, call me, you really want to meet Paul. He’s cool like that.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Friday, March 11, 2011
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Hi, I'm Laura, and I'll be your Fairy today.
Your Joy of Cooking Fairy, Makeup Fairy, Eating Out Fairy, Knitting Fairy…Anything, really, as it occurs to me. For example:
*I am halfway through knitting my first shawl in a silk/wool colorway called Transnational Fury by A Verb For Keeping Warm, and I will tell you it wasn't just the automotive suggestion of this red yarn's name, it was the power it evoked to tackle the lace chart and garment.
*I just signed up for a 3-session Anthony Bourdain-founded cooking course at Sur La Table, a cookware shop in Los Gatos, California.
*I am also running a comparison of foundation brushes among 4 brands which will include photos and notes on brand, performance, price and availability.
This being my first blog post, I will explain that many times you will experience these disparate bits of information on Fiber Arts, Cooking, What I'm Watching and Reading; which will, I promise you, gentle reader, come round to a cogent (as far as possible) thought that is my life. At that moment. And several other segments including tips and comparisons on Beauty/Hair/Makeup, Where I'm Going and What I'm Eating.
My husband, GingerMan, and I have watched Ninja Warrior for the duration of our relationship, 10 years. It is a crazy Japanese obstacle course competition most closely described as a Navy Seal and Army Ranger Love Child on Acid. Today's episode of Ninja featured Takahashi-San, a long-time competitor, finally breaking through the nearly impossible third stage of demonic physical tasks. The final stage consists of a couple-hundred meters climb up a rope and a pole in a ridiculously short time. In 12 years, only 2 men have made it.
The day after I was laid off from a law firm two years ago, I walked into a local yarn shop and began a new direction in life. I have met a huge community of very cool people and found an artistic, creative side to myself I had long forgotten about. I cook more, I read more, I celebrate and travel more and do it all with my husband and friends. It's like I was constantly biffing the early stages, but now have advanced to a more challenging course.
Being just shy of 40 now, it has been brought to my attention by the Ineffable Jasmin and Gigi (of the Knitmore Girls Podcast-check them out on Ravelry or iTunes--Best. Knitting. Podcast. Ever.) that what I seem to have is a Masters in Life. I've plunged into Fiber Arts, Drawing and Painting, Housewifery, and soon Sewing. As for my Kitchen Habit, I have always cooked, and loved it. Loved food and the bits that become something that look good and taste and smell heavenly and feel good to eat and share with others. It's a jones, an itch, a Freak Flag to fly.
Oh, Ancient Aliens? It's just My Stories, don't judge.
So now I'm sharing it all here. And why the name Joy of Cooking Fairy?
**LEGAL: I claim absolutely NO connection to the writers or publishers of The Joy of Cooking, The Rombauer or Becker families or Scribner Publishing.
I do, however, claim the legacy and culture of food, of home, of people--of everything we are: Artists, Girly-Girls, Chefs, Housechicks/dudes Extraordinaire, Bad-Asses, Business Babes, Anything that we fill in the blanks with. For me, it all started with the Joy of Cooking, among other iconic American collections, and I enjoy a bizarre continuum with JoC: I own several editions from different eras. Somehow, with moves and deaths in the family, I managed to collect a couple copies of each of the newer editions.
One went to Jasmin, to inaugurate her Americana Education. Ha! One Copy set free! Then, as I cleared out my grandmother's estate last fall, another came to light in the kitchen. So I passed it on to another friend in our circle. Ta-da! Come January 2011 and the estate sale, my mother and I unpack a box from grandma's office. Another JoC. Bugger. Wait! Miss Kalendar of Brass Needles Podcast (also on iTunes!) is next on the list! The circle is unbroken! Two weeks pass, I am tidying my pantry and a two-volume paperback copy pops up. *.......* At Stitches West, Ma Chère Hélène, back from exile in Texas, is the next pledge in the sorority.
I'm now back down to four copies. I'm a bit on tenterhooks as to where the next is gonna sneak up on me, but it's already happened--
"Pssst! Hey, you got any extra JoC's yet??"
So, grab your book, your apron, and join me in the Joy of Cooking. And Life. Cheers!Pin It Now!