Archive for the ‘no recipe’ Category

When I started this blog, it was about the recipes. It was a way for me to capture what I was cooking and eating. A way for me to end the search for that recipe that I made that time with the stuff, it was on the right side of page in that cookbook, I think. It replaced the spreadsheet (yup, geek here) that I devised to track the recipes I made and wanted to make, a spreadsheet with pivot tables (yup, doubling down on geek here) to easily pull up a list of all Greek soups with tomato as the main ingredient.

In those early days, my cookbooks filled one shelf, my cooking magazines two. The book section grew to two and pushed out the magazines. In a big purge, I spent dozens of night on the floor in front of my bookshelf with a pile of magazines. I flipped and I ripped, taking only the best recipes and filling a blue folder. Then a red folder. The cookbook shelves soon counted three, but a new shelf was emerging. A shelf of writing about food, not just recipes.

It started with Adam Gopnik’s writings about Paris, which was about the city, which meant it was about the food. Then, somewhat predictably, MFK Fisher. I jumped right in with her 744-page, five-books-in-one tome. I’m still pawing my way through that one. These days there’s Ruth Reichl, a handful of other food memoirs and recipes with stories, and more recently, the type of magazine that I don’t throw away.

I was driving to a meeting today, listening to NPR, and I realized that I don’t just think about food and read about food and write about food. I also think about writing. Today’s Fresh Air was an interview with Tony Kushner, who wrote the screenplay for the recently-released Lincoln movie. The story of the film’s development was interesting enough, but skip ahead to 11:57:

Dave Davies: I read that when you wrote this screenplay, you gathered just the right fountain pens and notebooks. What’s the role of that?

Tony Kushner: I write everything with a fountain pen, I don’t know why. I’ve done it since I was bar mitzvahed. I was given a fountain pen, a Parker fountain pen, and I loved it. And I never liked writing anything with pencils or ballpoints. I just can’t stand it. Fountain pens have very expressive lines. When  you’re upset and you’re writing really hard, it gets thicker and darker. And when you’re tentative, it’s thinner and more spidery… I keep notebooks and write in them. I’m 56 years old and I find it easier to write when I’m first pulling everything together with a pen and paper. The noise of the computer feels like impatience. It’s the sound of impatience to me. And I like having a paper trail of what I’ve crossed out because sometimes I go back and realize I shouldn’t have done that. It’s a more natural way for me to write. I’m sure I’m the last generation that will ever say anything like that.

When I got home, I pulled a small notebook from my purse, a fountain pen from the drawer, and tried to draw a line. The ink had dried up, and right now that pen tip is sitting in a shallow bowl of ever-bluer water, waiting to be filled again.

As I’m typing now, I hear that sound of impatience.

Once the nib is all clean and I’ve refilled the cartridge (brown ink this time?), I’m going to sneak away from my computer every now and again. I’ll go into a different room and maybe put my feet up and write. I’ll make scribbles and draw arrows and squeeze in extra notes perpendicular to the lines using smaller and smaller print until I hit the corner of the page. And then draw another arrow and keep writing.

I’ll hear the scratch of the tip. It will be the sound of writing.

I’m not sure how this will go.

I’ll keep you posted. (Get it, post-ed?)

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Yesterday I mentioned soup that inspired, well, yesterday’s soup. And I figure it’s only fair that I give you a glimpse of that soup and the cafe where I tried it.

So get out the popcorn and click on the picture. I made you a little movie!

(Thanks, Directr, for turning me into a fancy pants film maker. You guys rock!)

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I took a walk today.

I peeked onto a neighbor’s front porch.

I listened to some music.

I marveled at a garden.

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I’m pooped.

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Hi there.

I thought I’d let you look around my apartment today. A behind-the-scenes tour, if you want to call it that.

You’ve seen parts of my place all dressed up — covered with nice napkins and dishes, piles of forks and mugs of coffee, purposely haphazard pieces of parsley and slices of orange —  but I figured I’d take a step back, maybe two, and lay the surfaces bare.

The light in my apartment isn’t great, so I find myself chasing the sun most days.

Here’s where I take most of my pictures. It’s an old, stained microwave cart on wheels.

 I often drag it over to the window and cover it with a big white napkin. The napkin is rarely ironed.

Speaking of the window, I leave a lot of things on the sill to cool.

Somethings I take things outside to the balcony.

This is my table.

If you squint, you can also catch a glimpse of my chairs — six in all, three pairs, each pair a different design. There are the tall ladder backs with slats. The short ladder backs with round rungs. And the woven backs.  My sister bought them for me.

This is my lens. It was my first macro – a 35 mm. The photo’s taken with the lens, my fancy macro – a 50 mm. See the bokeh? Hello bokeh!

Here’s my coffee table. It’s big. Three-feet by three-feet by two-feet big. Which I hear is just about the same size as Deb Perelman‘s kitchen. It also has storage.

Finally, here’s where I get some good reading in.

I had toast for breakfast.

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A group of friends and I went out last night — there was spicy caramel popcorn. Oh, and a few drinks.

This morning, I made a full pot of coffee.

I’ve got a long day ahead of me.

Until tomorrow, have a great today.

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I ate it all

Just a few years out of college, I had a job that required me to travel 90% of the time.

You read that right. 90% of the time.

I was twenty-four and jumping in and out of rental cars. I knew where to find the best-tailored suits whose wrinkles could be steamed away by a ten-minute sauna in a bathroom with a hot running shower and fogged-up mirror. I wore heels every day and never, ever ran in the airport to catch a flight. I developed a taste for “non-fat grande latte, please” and for pouring a few packs of sugar in the raw into iced coffee so each straw-sucked sip contained a tiny crunch. I learned to rely on Starbucks, but hope for anything else.

I tap danced to gain admission to a speakeasy in Milwaukee, missed a flight to see Taliesen West, and ate fresh french fries out of a vending machine in Boise. (Fried while you wait! 100% vegetable shortening!)

I drove past the Hollywood sign. I drove to Portland (Oregon) and learned for the first time the meaning of the word breathtaking. I drove from Los Angeles to San Diego and kept driving until I was mere inches from Tijuana. I drove a lot. This was pre-GPS.

As I dined in kosher restaurants in half the states across the US, the thrill of my corporate card quickly faded and I grew accustomed to the inquisitive looks, the furrowed eye brows, the slow  smile. “Just one for dinner?” Or, “Are you waiting for the rest of your party?” And, “is anyone joining you?” I usually brought a novel, the companion to solo diners everywhere. This was pre-iAnything.

I’d often look around, stare off into space, sneak peeks at the other diners, listen to snippets of conversations. And then I’d return to my book. Hoping that my food would arrive. Reveling in my expense account, I ordered an appetizer and dessert to bookend my entrée. Returning to my trusty book between courses.  In and out and back to my hotel room in less than an hour tops.

I was on the road again last week and I wrote this post sitting on a plane to Las Vegas after a quick stop in Philadelphia for a conference.

I haven’t even made it to sin city yet, but the hedonism has already begun.

Last night, I dined at Zahav.

Here’s how that evening of indulgence and decadence and intense pleasure went:

As my taxi rolled to a stop over cobblestone in the Society Hill neighborhood, I saw a soft glow from the restaurant set away from the street and perched atop a flight of stairs. The sign, its green lettering in a Hebrew-like font, let me know I had arrived.

Up the stairs and into the large yet somehow intimate room dressed in Jerusalem stone, I gave my name to the hostess and asked for a seat at the bar separated from the kitchen by a thick glass window. A mix of Israeli and reggae music played in the background. Just moments after settling onto my stool, I snuck out my not-so-inconspicuous camera and snapped a few shots through the glass, past stacks of dishes and bowls, to capture the action. Catching the eye of one of the cooks, I shyly smiled and shrugged, embarrassed that I was invading her space. She smiled back and shrugged too, welcoming me into her world.

Gaining courage, I kneeled on my stool, my face hidden from view by the rapidly clicking camera. When my waitress approached with the menu, I scrambled down, nearly falling off the stool.

She set before me a small dish of olives and pickles and a plate of za’atar, harissa, and schug to “season each of your dishes, as you like,” and explained that the food at Zahav is inspired by Israel and the Middle East but is far from traditional. “If you see something – like kugel – on the menu that you’ve eaten before, you probably won’t recognize our version.”

A few minutes staring at the menu with glazed-over eyes, I settled on the Tayim tasting menu (tayim means tasty in Hebrew) and selected my dishes guided by the recommendations of a friend who had eaten at Zahav the week before.

I started with a glass of Cinsault  from Lebanon’s Bekaa valley (Chateau Mussar Cuvee Jeune, 2009) and a mint-flecked limonana.

A few minutes later, I scorched my fingertips tearing off a piece of still-steaming laffa, rolled up to preserve its heat. I pinched the laffa into the butter-swirled Turkish hummus in a pan too hot to touch.

I plucked from my tower of salatim each of the eight (eight!) cold salads. I started with spicy Moroccan carrots. Then cooling cucumbers. And a sip of wine. A piece of laffa spread with twice-baked eggplant. A spoon of taboule with huckleberries. A slurp of limonanna. A pinch of hummus. A spoon of beet salad. A bite of naked laffa.

I was dizzy by the time I reached salads six, seven, and eight.

I chatted with the waiters and waitresses, the manager, the hostess, the guy manning the fire-breathing oven.  One of the waitresses asked if I wanted to come back into the kitchen.

I looked at her and all I could say was !!!!!!!

She led me around the corner, through the back prep kitchen, and dropped me off in front of the hearth. I watched an entire tray of dough systematically rolled out, slid into the mouth of the hearth, puffed and bubbled and crisped to perfection, wrapped around tongs, and laid down next to bowls of hummus resting on small squares of Israeli newspaper.

I watched “the new guy” working the line on his first night, having only started in the kitchen mere hours before I arrived. The other chefs patiently directing him, correcting him. He joked that I had as much right to be in that kitchen as he did. I blushed. And a small part of me hoped that, like him, I belonged.

I chatted up the woman manning the grill, as people passed from the prep kitchen to the front kitchen, bearing more trays of soft laffa dough and metal containers of sliced vegetables.

I followed plates and bowls as they moved down the counter in a procession: a smear of sauce, a scoop of grains, a sprinkle of vegetable, a gleaming protein. I watched the delicate choreography of cooks, calm yet quick, turning from counter to oven to counter again.

Stomach grumbling, I went back to my stool, my blue napkin folded neatly into a pyramid next to my fork and knife.

Within minutes, my mezze arrived. Each was a party of opposites – savory and sweet, crunchy and smooth – an adventure in every mouthful. First, a plate of delicate orange persimmon slices sprinkled with crumbled not-too-salty feta, thinly sliced radish, and olive tapenade. Next, cauliflower fried to a golden brown scattered over a green pool of labne with chive, dill, mint, and garlic.

As I lifted my first glistening forkful of persimmon, I was surprised by a third dish, delivered “compliments of the chef.” Small cubes of crispy haloumi cheese surrounded by roasted squash, date purée, and lemon-tinged apple matchsticks.

I cleared my plate. Well, plates. And watched as my al ha’esh – a skewer grilled “over the fire” – approached. It was a landscape of trumpet mushrooms over couscous, covered with a fried egg trimmed into a perfect circle.

Halfway through the mushrooms, another bowl arrived with a few bites of that evening’s specialty grilled dish. And another glass of wine.

Finally, dessert and coffee. I ordered the kataifi – crispy threads of phylo wrapped around Valrhona chocolate and topped with mango.

Topped also with labneh ice cream. This ice cream deserves its own sentence. Perhaps its own paragraph. It was a slightly sour, slightly sweet, creamy delight that coated my palate in sheer delicious.

Deeply sated, I wandered around the restaurant, sneaking peeks at the other diners and their dishes, eavesdropping on snippets of conversation. Checking out the kitchen from the other side of the bar, chatting with the waiters and waitresses again. Not wanting the evening to end. Despite having finished my meal.

I returned to my stool for my last sips of now-cool coffee and found my blue napkin again folded into a pyramid and placed next to a final gift from the kitchen. A second dessert. Semifreddo – light airy caramel ice cream sandwiched between two crisp pistachio cookies in a pool of cherry and topped with a dab of dulce de leche.

In case you’re counting, that was eight salatim, one hummus, one laffa, three mezze, one and a half al ha’esh main courses, and two desserts.

And I ate it. I ate it all.

The  novel I carried never made it out of my purse. My dining companion was Zahav – the restaurant, the food, the staff, the atmosphere. I felt a little bit like family.

Zahav:  237 Saint James Place  Philadelphia, PA 19106

Note: Zahav is not a kosher restaurant, however they refrain from cooking pork, shellfish, or meat and dairy in the same dish.

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behind the scene

I just got back from several days in Vegas. In the midst of this spectacle of a city, I  found myself drawn to the scenes behind the scene.

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My last full day in Vienna, I woke up with the city. Before the cafes opened, I stepped out of my hotel into the misty haze hiding the slowly rising sun. I boarded a small bus and sat next to the driver as we made our way through the sleepy streets.  Past the men in light green jumpsuits sweeping the pavement. Past the early pedestrian commuters waiting on the curb for the light to turn before crossing the road, despite ours being the only car in sight.

Less than an hour into the drive, we watched from the highway as Bratislava approached and faded away. Hours before the time I normally wake up on a Sunday, we arrived in Budapest.

We spent the remainder of the morning criss-crossing the Danube from Buda to Pest and back again. We spent some time in the Castle District, roaming around the cobblestone streets and snagging glimpses of the buildings over on the Pest side.

A few minutes scaling the walls and I was ready to eat.

I was planning to step into the oldest cafe in Budapest for a slice of cake and tea, but got sidetracked by the scent of caramelizing sugar wafting from an open window. I entered the little bakery and watched as the woman in the white and black polka dot apron made Kürtőskalács, also known as chimney cakes. She rolled out the soft sweet dough and used a pizza cutter to separate out long strips. She methodically spiralled the strips of dough around a small long-handled rolling pin. She rolled the pin on the counter to smooth out the edges. She brushed the dough with butter and rolled it in sugar. She placed the pins of dough in the oven  hearth. A motor in the back turned them slowly as the caramelizing sugar crept around and around the dough.

Prompted more by my unwavering daze than the several Euros I dropped on the counter with a clink, she placed the still crackling brûléed sweet in a cellophane sleeve and then in my outstretched hands. I walked out, unraveling my snack as steam puffed out of the center like the chimney it was named after.

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in great company

Very soon after la rentrée and the start of the school year is Rosh Hashana. The new year that feels more like a new year than New Year’s eve. This new year is an exciting one for me with a new job and some fun news.

I’ve been discovered!

Not by talent scouts. Or a modeling agency. Or to be one of the Solid Gold dancers. (Seriously, folks – please tell me I’m not the only one who wanted to be one of those sexy ladies.) But by the food community. Several magazines have recognized my (food-related) work and I’m enjoying the ride. You already know about PresenTense magazine’s planned article. Then, Saveur magazine stumbled upon my post about cold-brewed iced coffee and directed readers to it as part of their weekly “links we love” section.  They love me! And they listed me alongside the New York Times, USA Today, Food Republic, Serious Eats and two other blogs.

But before all that began, I was interviewed for Hadassah magazine. Check out the article! It even made it to good old paper.

I’m in great company these days. The Hadassah article is written by Adeena Sussman. Her mother was a good friend of mine’s. And she has written the wine section of the 2009 Fodor’s Israel travel guide…which my Aunt edited. Favoritism? Maybe. But I’ll take what I can get.

In writing the article, Adeena also spoke with Rivka Friedman who writes Not Derby Pie. She lives in DC (where I grew up) and is a health care consultant (like I am). Her pictures are gorgeous and she once introduced me to a wonderful CD. Adeena also spoke with Michelle Kemp-Nordell who writes Baroness Tapuzina. She is friends with my friend and travel buddy, Sarah Melamed who writes FoodBridge.

As Rosh Hashana rapidly approaches, and I start to think about what I’ll be cooking, I figured this was a good time to remind you all about the apple cake that I adapted from one of Rivka’s cakes a few years back. This is the recipe that is featured in the magazine. Go on – try it. You won’t be sorry. And your company will love it.

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