Thursday, November 29, 2007

q&a vol. III

sunday morning hash browns

Ah, NaBlo… It wasn’t enough for me to fail you once (friends over into the wee hours), twice (came home to heat not working, cannot blog while burrowed under ten blankets) or three times (I had already blown it twice, what’s one more?)–I have to go for a nice even number like four. Why no new recipe on Wednesday? Well, if you skip to question six, your answer awaits!

Until that situation rightens itself, I will have to bore you with one more Q&A, this one still leftovers from questions asked a few weeks ago. Hey, I promised I’d get to them, wouldn’t I?

A lot more cooking will follow this post, as I literally have more excuses to cook in the coming weeks than I have actual days in those weeks. I couldn’t be happier.

Shall we begin again? [Q&A Vol. I] [Q&A Vol. II]

measuring spoons

Mary asked are there any on-line sources for food or cooking paraphernalia that I would recommend.

Since I’m spoiled living in New York City, land of a thousand restaurant supply stores and dozens of kitchen specialty boutiques, I don’t do a lot of online shopping for cooking supplies. Even when Amazon can beat a price (it often does) the cost advantage is lost in shipping charges, oh, and my impatience. Beyond Amazon, Sur La Table is wonderful as well.

Mary also wants me to show you our cookbook collection, but I of course forgot to take a picture.

So, I have spent most my adult life trying to avoid buying every cookbook I want–there are too many, so many are just okay, and my space is too limited. I looked to buy tomes, tour de forces only–Joy of Cooking, How to Cook Everything, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and the Gourmet Cookbook (probably my least-used cookbook of all). Needless to say, having a food blog has gotten me over largely over my purchasing conservatism, but I like only like to get a new one only once in a while, or it gets lost in the shuffle. Some of my current favorites on the shelf are David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop, Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours and my two newest, Molly Stevens All About Braising and The Silver Spoon, which Alex surprised me with a few weeks ago but I haven’t started into–yet. My list of coveted cookbooks is endless.

Tara wants to know what my favorite “common” food is. She thinks I cook such “beautiful and sophisticated food” all the time, but she has a feeling deep down that “you could put away a few buffalo wings if no one was looking.” Is she right?

I love good French fries. I would happily have a plate of them with a glass of white wine and a small green salad for dinner any night of the week. I eat them with an inordinate amount of ketchup. Oh, and the smell of McDonalds fries always sends me swooning, though so often the taste doesn’t match up. Iceberg wedge “salads” with blue cheese and crumbled bacon are also a favorite of mine, and the shredded rib sandwich at R.U.B. I only had it once (before my heart gave out) but hot damn. Can’t get into buffalo wings (messy, spicy, nothing to really eat), but I did have some Korean fried chicken a couple months ago that blew my mind–crisp, non-greasy and served with pickled… gah, I forget what it is called. White, cubed. I was in heaven.

quick saute

Sara wants to know more about my day job, and she’d also like to hear some of my tips/tricks/routine for a balancing a full day job and my blog.

Well, seeing as Blogging Rule Number One is to not blog about work, even though a good chunk of my coworkers read this site, I still like to keep some separation. The short of it is: I’m a reporter. I write about geeky stuff and the daily grind. As for balancing, it helps that I don’t really have a life–ha. But really, it is my drive to “get to” my endless wish list of recipes gets me in the kitchen more often than not. Basically, when I have time to cook, I make sure I have a recipe and ingredients on the ready, either by picking them up on my way home from work or, more often, begging Alex too since he gets out of work earlier than me. When I can, like on a weekend or a day off, I try to make more than one recipe at a time, so content doesn’t dry up just because I get busy.


Dancer who Eats asks if I could name my favorite quick recipes, items I always have in the pantry, or prep work you can do over the weekend to make cooking on a weekday feasible?

When I am itching for something home-cooked but lack the time, we do a lot of sauteed whatever vegetables we have around cooked into a frittata or tossed with pasta. I also love cubing up vegetables, tossing them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasting the heck out of them. We’ll eat those over couscous, which cannot be beat when you’re short on time.

I’ve only just discovered my freezer and its infinite usefulness in the last year, but if you are trying to get cooking done in advance, it can be your best friend. Some of my favorite things to keep in there, because they reheat/bake up very well from the freezer are soups, uncooked pie/tart doughs, unbaked cookies, uncooked dumplings, sausages, homemade stock, bread and, heck, even homemade barbeque sauce for long-term storage, plus classic prep-and-freeze items like lasagna or pizza dough. On the OCD side, if I know I’m going to be short on time (and having guests over) but don’t think a dish will keep well overnight, I might even pre-chop all of the vegetables the night before, and store them in a container or baggies in the fridge so they’re ready when I need them. This saves a surprising amount of time. My rule is that anything that can be done in advance, should be, or you’ll have no fun hosting.

The pantry is sporadically stocked with a multitude of varieties of dried lentils, grains, flours, sugars and, in all likelihood, not a single thing I need for the recipe I have in mind. It likes to mess with me like that.

fennel seeds

Julie wants some kitchen disaster stories.

Last night, I tried to make fennel ice cream from the October issue of Gourmet, which came highly recommended by a friend who is a pastry chef and served it where she works, and therefore should always be listened to. Oh wait, I can’t tell this story because it’s gross. Let’s just say that I realized after I was simmering the ingredients on the stove that the fennel seeds were not… usable. And while I was throwing them away, the cream boiled over and spilled all over the stove and under the burners. And the cleaning lady had just come a few hours earlier. Oh, and we’d forgotten to leave the bolt lock undone for her so I had to take a cab home from work at 11:30 a.m. to let her in, totally throwing my day off, but that’s not really a cooking disaster anymore, is it?

I hope to revisit the ice cream tonight.

Emily says that since Alex and I are always making such great recipes, don’t we end up with a ton of food for two people? Do we trim down larger recipes or do you have a refrigerator full of leftovers (which we know you’re not into)?

The general rule is that desserts are cooked for other people, and dinner is cooked for us. A good lot of the recipes I make for the site have been halved or even quartered, because unless it’s a curry, soup or quiche, odds are not good that we’ll eat it again. I am a master subdivider. I should add that to my resume, huh?

Sally asks if I have ever seriously considered a reality show.

Unfortunately, I am petrified of the camera, or at least the end of it that I can’t look through.


Tatiana asks if I had to cook with only five ingredients for the rest of my life (excluding water, salt, and pepper), what would they be?

A true baker, I’d pick flour, eggs, cream (I could make butter and buttermilk!), lemon and artichokes. Sure, the last one isn’t the most functional, but I’d be sad to be without them.

Colleen asks: Do you have a good method of filing, tracking, rating all the recipes you clip, print, come across in cookbooks, etc.?

I don’t, unless you consider Web bookmarks “in order” though I can assure you that they are neither sorted, tagged, alphabetized or grouped in any way.

Because I am a techie-nerd, I tend to find the vast majority of my recipes online, when I am procrastinating have scheduled downtime from my job, and I have a file of bookmarks over 200-long –ooh! Braised Belgian Endive Gratin! — make that 201.

On a day when I get out of work at 5 p.m. and there are no dishes from the day before waiting for us or a fridge so filled so prohibitively filled with god-knows-what that I can’t fathom going grocery shopping, I love this file. Should I make Ravioli with Radicchio and Speck or Roasted Stuffed Onions? Leek and Swiss Chard Galette or Buckwheat Crepes with Cauliflower? Roasted Parsnip and Red Lentil Soup? The kitchen is my oyster! But most days, when I’m at work until 6:30 or 7 p.m. and I resign myself to takeout when I get home it’s I hate you stupid recipe bookmarks, as it incessantly reminds of all that I will never achieve.

Whoa–didn’t mean to get carried away there! So, yes, there are bookmarks upon bookmarks and also a document saved with original recipe ideas plus a binder in the living room from when I used to have dead-tree recipe clippings from newspapers and magazines. That, btw, is the height of organization, color-coded and tabbed but almost completely useless to me because what I wanted to cook 5 years ago–wild boar, boiled rabbit, fromage de tete–and what I want to cook today are pretty different. And so it goes.

And, I think that’s enough Q&A for today, don’t you think? Seriously, I think this is longer than my last cover article!


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