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100% of studies show that if you don't eat, you'll get hungry.



Published: 2008-06-20T09:00:41-05:00

 



braised baby turnips

2008-06-20T09:00:41-05:00

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I think baby-anything is cuter than its adult version. Puppies, kittens, baby seals, baby pandas, regular people babies. Baby vegetables, especially turnips, are cuter than their adult counterparts too - just look at these baby turnips - aren't they just adorable?

Just look at them - aren't they adorable? So little and white and perfectly-rounded - bursting with spring freshness! As soon as I saw them at the market, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them and it wasn't anything complicated. Why mess with perfection?

So what I did was a simple braise - in olive oil and lemon juice with a few garlic cloves thrown in for flavor. Some herbes de Provence a little salt and white pepper - and that's it. And then I had the turnips with a little white wine, closing my eyes in bliss. They didn't taste of the earth like mature turnips do, but of the sun and rain, filled with juice, bursting with a sweet flavor - unhardened by the seasons and the temperature. Babies they were - so unpolluted and pure - and so darn cute on my plate, I almost paused to eat them. Almost, of course. And then a few minutes later, they were gone, with a lemony taste lingering in my mouth for a few more moments.




bourbon-spiked banana bread

2008-06-16T14:28:27-05:00

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My love-affair with the South is multi-fold and I can wax poetic for hours putting most normal folks to sleep, but if I had to pick my three favorite things, it would be what I refer to as the Three B's: bluegrass, barbecue and bourbon. And if ever I could combine all three, it would be pure heaven. It's very hard to me to resist bourbon in food as well. The famous tipsy-cakes is probably what started the love-affair and the Jack Daniel's ice cream at this place didn't help the matters. I've sampled quite a few bourbons in the past, and have finally found my favorite, but I'm always on the lookout for new, small-batch-made bourbon.

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I'm not sure where the idea of putting bourbon into banana bread came from, but I'm glad I did it - the bread gave off a deep caramel aroma and it accentuated the sweetness of the banana. In my now-predicable move, I substituted cranberries for walnuts as I greatly prefer more tart to my quick-breads and because I have my cranberry supply to go through.

I suggest pouring out a slightly more generous portion of bourbon than the recipe calls for - it's quite possible, if not probable, that you might want to have a taste prior to adding the bourbon to the batter, you know, to make sure it hasn't gone bad or anything. Quality control is so important nowadays.

UPDATE: Kris in the comment section, very accurately pointed out to me that JD is not bourbon but is sour mash whiskey - a very good point indeed. For those of you looking for a quick primer on the difference, I found one here!




green garlic and spinach soup

2008-06-09T13:34:38-05:00

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Oh hi, it's me, it's seems that I've yet again fallen into crazy days at work, days that are interminable. My last push towards getting better from the endless cold involved getting a second course of antibiotics and last week was all but a blur, with 15 hour work days and general chaos notwithstanding. The antibiotics are also making me very tired as a result, but one of the side-effects is that of having trouble sleeping. Lovely, lovely stuff, I tell ya.

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However, I have to, however briefly, tell you about this soup I made a few weeks back that was just beyond heaven. I was quite inspired by Molly's dreamy write-up on it and ever since I read her post on this soup, it's been on the foreground of my mind.

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And so when I spied the green garlic at our Saturday local greenmarket, I was quite overcome with joy because this soup was now well within my reach! My enthusiasm scared KS a bit because once I set my mind on something food-related, I am very ebullient about it. He is more of a subdued force and acts as a very good foil to my otherwise irrational exuberance. But I think this time my glee was well-founded - we loved the soup so much, we finished all, but a single bowl of it in one hungry sitting.

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I added some seductively fragrant extra-virgin olive oil to our bowls as we try to go as much dairy-free as possible. I highly recommend a dollop of the finest olive oil you have in the house to enhance it.




lemon yogurt cake with cranberries

2008-05-27T15:10:47-05:00

The day after I wrote about the delicious Korean pancake, I came down with the cold to end all colds. And 12 days since the day I fell sick, I am still dealing with its remnants, which manifest themselves in pressure in my sinuses so bad, I have an upper jaw toothache. The same cold that managed to make me cough up a lung, develop a case of nasty pink eye, that very same cold has been unresponsive to antibiotics and other medicine. I’m seeing my doctor today again for hopefully stronger meds – I should be getting frequent flier miles there. I’ve used up numerous tissues and might be on the government's special monitor list for buying too many decongestants. I swear, I’m not making anything out of them! And so without a doubt, this long weekend was to be spent at home, recuperating and gaining my strength back. My boss also asked me to babysit her two pugs for a day, and while the dogs are very cute and friendly, I must say, I am a large dog person after all. For one reason or another, we couldn’t leave the pugs at home to take a walk outside – one of the dogs looked as if he was going to have a heart attack when he realized we might be leaving. So I sent KS off to watch the new Indiana Jones, while I puttered around the kitchen. We had some lemons left over and some yogurt I had to put to some good use in order not to throw it out, and so I once again, relied on Ina Garten’s recipe for her lemon yogurt cake, which I have made with blood oranges and Deb over at Smitten Kitchen made with grapefruit and other citrus things. I omitted the glaze from my cake because I find that glazes generally ruin baked goods for me. I dislike glazed cakes the same way I dislike frosted cookies – I find them overly sweet. Without the glaze, the cake is a wonderful morning accompaniment to coffee, or stands as a snack on its own. And were I to make any other enhancements, I would say, use about half the oil the recipe asks for and you will wind up with a lovely, moist, seductively-scented cake. I can’t resist lemons in anything – and with the sun shining and the warm weather finally settling in, this lemon cake just makes me want to grin from ear to ear. Of course, no cake of this nature for me would be replete without cranberries, as I like a little bit of tartness in the otherwise sweet dough. As some of you might know, each November, I buy about 6 bags of cranberries, use about 2-3 bags on the holiday itself, and then freeze the remaining 3 bags. They last me about a year and make a fantastic addition to things like pumpkin bread, apple pie and the above creation.[...]



korean pancake

2008-05-15T17:35:14-05:00

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People, it’s been a busy week and it all started on Monday when KS and I attended a wonderful benefit, which was inspirational and motivating. I’ve been asked to try to create a Russia-based branch – so we’ll see if I am successful in launching a Russia chapter. Would be swell!

The other weeknights, tonight included, KS has been galavanting around town for business-related functions, and I (sigh) have been left home alone, forced to fend for myself and cook single portion meals, which could at times be daunting. Well, not this time!

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While catching up on my daily food blog reading, I came upon David Lebovitz’ recipe for a Korean pancake. And it looked so good that I resolved to cook it that very evening for my own single-portion dinner.

Except, when it comes to cooking for myself, I am quite shockingly lazy. I mean really lazy. Lazy enough that I had to stand in the kitchen making a mental list of pros and cons of whether or not I should cook this dish for myself. We’re talking about a five minute dish, here. But I was all, “Meh, I have to clean up after myself and I don’t wanna,” and “All I want to do is watch Freaks & Geeks on dvd, not cook and clean up!” People, I mean stupendously lazy. But I was so ashamed of just how lazy I was, that my own self-shame, propelled me to get off my behind and make this pancake.

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Which. Was. Amazing.

I know that David instructed to let this pancake cool before eating it, but in my book, that just wasn’t happening – I was far too hungry to wait. I ate it warm, drizzled with Sriracha sauce (ok, so not really Korean, but still) and a side of kimchee, which I could eat daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And it was heavenly and I was even more ashamed of having even debated making it.

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And so, tonight, with KS being out and about again, I am left to my own devices. I have a bunch of scallions left over and a jar of kimchee in the fridge. I think another pancake is in order for dinner. I just hope that I don’t have the same internal laziness debate when I get home – that would be truly embarrassing.




chocolate-covered matzo

2008-05-01T13:05:23-05:00

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I’m going to make this short and sweet for several reasons. First of all there is little I can say about chocolate-covered matzo, other than it’s super easy to make, it tastes really good, and it gives you a great way to use your leftover matzo, which you probably have grown sick of in the 8 day span when Passover ran your life and diet.

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Me, I had a few boxes left over, reminding me of my over-zealousness in preparation for the holiday. Also, chocolate-covered matzo is so easy to make, it’s almost embarrassing to dedicate a whole blog post to it, let alone give you the recipe for how to make it. It’s almost as if I would talk down to you all, it’s that easy. And talking down to you is the last thing I want to do.

But here’s the thing – this simple snack tastes so good, I want to tell the world, you don’t have to eat your matzo plain, or with cream cheese or butter – you can have it with chocolate. (As if I needed another reason to have chocolate.)

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And lastly, I want to keep this short because today is my 30th birthday(here come the wrinkles!) So I want to go and revel in the day – I think I deserve it. Maybe I'll make myself a chocolate-covered matzo and stick a candle in it.

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chicken soup with matzo balls

2008-04-25T10:46:38-05:00

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I meant to post this earlier this week – KS was sick this weekend and I made him this chicken soup. But I myself came down with a horrible stomach bug on Wednesday and could do no more than lie in bed and sleep while trying to shake of a fever. But now that I’m better, I have to post this recipe before it gets way too hot for chicken soup. Because this was KS’s favorite soup to date and besides the porcini mushroom soup which I can’t speak highly enough of, this might be mine too.

Everything in the soup just worked, the flavors were deep, developed, perfect. It possessed a thick heartiness to it, and filled your belly with warm, comforting, familiar flavors. I call it my everything-but-the-kitchen-sink soup. I put a lot of various things in it and it does take some time to make, but it is totally and wholly worth it.

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Don't forget to skim the frothy part of the broth when the whole thing boils for the first time - for that I've included a rather unappetising picture of the froth - so you know what it looks like and are compelled to skim it ever-so-vigilantly.

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I would also steer you in the direction of buying a whole chicken, rather than chicken parts. I’m convinced that there’s something magical in the proportion of white meat and dark meat and it makes the broth just right texture wise. It’s just as simple to pull the bones out of a whole chicken as chicken parts – when it’s so fully cooked it’s falling off the bone, the whole process takes mere minutes. Besides, when you get a whole chicken, you get the neck, the giblets and the tiny chicken liver – and aren’t those the best parts?

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chicken piccata

2008-04-18T08:41:56-05:00

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There comes a point at every Passover when I begin to grow tired of the traditional dishes, the gefilte fish starts looking revolting, and no matter which way you slice it, all I really want is a bagel, or a bowl of pasta, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; simple and gratifying,. They are all humble foods, honest and filling, and I miss them terribly. The eight days begin to seem interminable. What can I say - I like my leavened starches!

But truth be told, I doubt I would miss any of those things, if I could take the entire week off and just focus on Passover cooking, if I didn’t have to balance it with a 12-hour workday. I could get creative and just spend my days creating holiday appropriate dishes. I have always wanted to host a Mediterranean seder, serving some Italian and Greek-inspired dishes. Maybe a roasted rack of lamb, or a branzini.

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Oh, but there’s also my version of chicken piccata. I’ve deviated a bit from the traditional way of making it in that I roast my chicken with all the ingredients. Perhaps that’s an insult to the traditional method of preparation, but I like my way better. Sautéed chicken always leaves me a bit lackluster, but roast chicken – now that’s a whole different story altogether.

I also find that on a night when you come home from work, tired and hungry and with a laundry-list of to-do items around the apartment, this version is fantastically easy to put together and not worry about until it’s time to pull the chicken out. With the exception of a singular trip to the oven to turn the chicken breasts over, you are free to buzz about your home, tidying up, paying bills, folding laundry, or simply kicking back on the couch with a glass of wine, watching Seinfeld reruns. The latter happens to be my preference, but somehow errands get in the way.

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By omitting butter from the recipe here, you magically transform this every-day dish into kosher-for-Passover dish. I should do a bit more research, but I believe capers are permitted to use during the holiday. Everything else in the recipe, lemon, wine, garlic, olive oil, salt, are permitted for Passover use.

So there you have it, an easy-peasy Passover recipe that isn’t gefilte fish. How fabulous is that? And I dare say that most of these ingredients should already be in your pantry, save perhaps the capers, but those are easy enough to locate. And maybe adding another dish into your Passover repertoire will make the week go by a bit faster. And before you know it, you’ll be enjoying that bagel or that bowl of pasta all over again!




meringues, sort of

2008-04-13T17:29:15-05:00

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When I think of the phrase “spectacular disaster” I think of an implied double meaning. Is it a disaster so notable that it will be long remembered? Or was it as disaster that turned out rather well, unexpectedly? In my case, this Sunday, it was the latter.

I tried to make meringues and failed. Failed miserably as they were the flattest, saddest looking things you’ve ever laid eyes on. Fluffy and cloud-like they were not. Instead, they were crispy, flat, thin, two-dimensional. They were so deflated and when I took them out of the oven, they deflated even more, thus crushing my already-fragile cooking ego to a paper-thin level.

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Growing up, my mother would make meringues that dreams are made of. They were impossibly airy, beautifully crumbly and dissolved on your tongue like a fairy-tale dessert. In fact, my favorite way to eat them would while reading Grimm Brothers’ Fairytales – stories, I am still fond of to this day. All she used were egg whites and sugar. And they were perfect every time.

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I decided to give my meringues a little edge and added vanilla and lemon zest. I’m not sure whether it was the timing of adding sugar to the egg whites or the lemon zest itself, but I never wound up with stiff airy peaks like you’re supposed to. And perhaps I should have stopped right there, but I decided not to trust my gut and bake these guys anyway.

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After I pulled the out of the oven, they were a pathetic bunch. I might have heard a sad sigh from one of them, or it could have been all in my head. Still, I refused to throw them in the garbage and when I bit into one, I was pleasantly surprised. They weren’t bad.

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Now, I’m the first to admit failure when I am faced with one. If I took a class on meringues, and this was going to be my final product, I would expect an F. And yet, these egg white crisps were not bad, they were quite tasty, but in a completely different way. I might even try to make them again because they were quite intriguing, these crisps.

And so I wonder, as I bite into another crisp – a spectacular disaster? Perhaps not spectacular per se, but certainly a palatable one.




couscous with peas, mint and cilantro

2008-04-08T07:43:26-05:00

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While the beer-braised lamb was nothing to get excited about, the couscous I made to complement the dish - was. I'll be as brief about it as the time it takes to cook the whole thing. It was exactly what I was looking for in a spring dish - the peas sweetened the couscous, while the mint and cilantro added freshness and the promise that this rain and cold are not permanent elements of the season, but rather fleeting ones. That the sunshine and the warmth I was longing for, are just around the corner. I'm still waiting.

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This side was wonderfully easy to make and will have to be made again soon - I couldn't get enough of it! If you're planning a last minute dinner party and are looking for something fantastic yet simple, this is something to consider. If you plan ahead (something I've not been able to do lately given work's insanity) you can even use fresh peas, which undoubtedly would make this couscous even better!

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And of course, if you happen to dislike either mint or cilantro, there's no reason not to try other herbs in their place. How about dill or parsley? Maybe some chives and cucumbers instead? If none of those options appeal to you, try adding some lemon zest to your couscous and watch it come alive!




beer braised leg of lamb

2008-04-02T20:50:17-05:00

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I'm not sure how to segue into this post I've written and rewritten this post nearly half a dozen times and I'm just not feeling it. Perhaps because making this dish left me pretty bleh to begin with. Not terrible, not great - it was simply "meh" on the scale of "ewww" to "mmmm". It was just so-so. And it was largely my fault.

I'm very picky with lamb. Almost ridiculously so. Back in high-school when I ate Easter dinner with my then-boyfriend's family, it was the one holiday meal I kind of dreaded. Out of politeness for the mother, I would break my strict vegetarianism to take a symbolic bite sized piece of lamb, flavored only with salt and rosemary. But what made me quiver was the mint jelly, which to this day reminds me of eating toothpaste. But give me a fragrant Uzbek plov, or Persian manty, and I can't get enough lamb. It's all in the flavoring I suppose. Like I said, I'm tricky with this meat.

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And so when KS and I picked up a leg of lamb (on sale!) at Whole Foods on Sunday, fresh from our Carribean get-away and eager to fill up our fridge and pantry with edibles, I was rather indecisive of how I wanted to cook it.

Part of me wanted to roast it. Part of me wanted to braise it. Part of me wanted something simple and a part of me wanted a dish full of complex spices. In short, I was asking for the impossible and I wasn't going to take it.

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After failing to find a recipe I liked, I decided to marry a few of my own. I was going to braise the lamb in beer, but add more spices and herbs than what the recipe called for. And perhaps that's where I went wrong because the dish just didn't know what it wanted to be. And so it was just so-so.

Tyler Florence recommended a Roast Leg of Lamb with beer, honey and thyme and while I liked the idea of beer, but not of honey or thyme. Another recipe with my favorite Alton Brown, suggested a grilled leg of lamb with pomegranate molasses. But we lacked an indoor grill, and for some reason, KS is not a fan of sweet/salty combinations. I managed to sneak some of it in anyway and he still doesn't know about it (or he will once he reads this post).

We ate this dish in its entirety and are completely now lamb'ed out. And though this recipe was a bit of a letdown, the couscous I made along-side it was nothing short of incredible. But that's for Sunday night. We're off to DC for a wedding some the cherry blossoms festival. If anyone has any fantastic brunch recommendations in the Georgetown area or beyond, please let me know!

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mustique

2008-03-31T14:57:15-05:00

It was perfect. Warm, sunny, green, calm, quiet. It was at times lazy when we lay on the beach curling our toes in the sand, and at times active and strenuous when we ran and completed the Easter 10K race across the island's very hilly terrain. There was my chance meeting with Mick Jagger (yes, the one of the Rolling Stones fame) and our nonchalant chat about the weather - apparently the weather report he gets is from Norway and he's not terribly pleased with them. My lazy beach reads of M.F.K. Fisher and Proust both felt somehow appropriate for the occasion despite the latter's heavy-handedness. Every breakfast began with a solitary cup of coffee, a newspaper, a book while gazing out to the sea, the sky and that gauzy, glowing line where the two meet - my version of heaven on earth. There were moments when I wanted to snap a mental picture of the vast, expansive horizon, the curve of it, so that I could instantly recall it in my mind's eye, so that I could remind myself that while I am back in New York, on a cold and rainy day, that magnificent horizon is out there still. Every morning and afternoon upon crossing over to the main house, I looked for a team (group? family?) of turtles that would slowly, persistently be crossing the lawn. They ate the dessicated grass from time to time, showing visible excitement upon finding a fallen hibiscus flower. I was quite taken with these turtles - they were charming in their languid, pensive ways. I'd like to think, that in their own, turtle ways, they were equally taken with me. Mustique is a bit of a riddle - it's difficult to describe. It felt unlike any other place I've ever been to. It was in some ways magical, fairy-tale like, disarming. In no other place have I ever felt so safe, so relaxed, so trusting. Like Disneyland minus the tea-cup ride and the Mickey Mouse. The last place where the water was so blue was Cote d'Azur, I couldn't believe my eyes - it's as if someone colored the water with a crayon. There were new local foods to try: like baked christophene and callaloo soup (I didn't take pictures at dinner as I didn't want to be a nuisance to the rest of our party - there were 18 of us there). There was rum punch and homemade ginger beer, which I'll attempt at home, and amazing hot sauce which we brought back with us. It went by so fast and I miss it already. Mustique is a kind of place that is difficult not to love and impossible to forget. [...]



afternoon delight; cocktails and moonlit nights

2008-03-20T20:39:28-05:00

I was really hoping to share an old family recipe with you of Salad Olivye, which is a glorified, amazing potato salad with flare, but I simply have run out of time. I'll say this though, I made it using Molly's recipe for mayonnaise and the result was nothing short of symphonic, divine, stunning. I will wax poetic on that and Mustique experiences upon return next week.

I wish everyone happy Purim, Easter and a good week ahead.




braised beef short ribs

2008-03-10T12:33:17-05:00

I can't quite decide if this Daylight Savings thing is working for me. On the one hand, it's wonderful to leave work while the sky is still brightly lit. On the other hand, waking up at 5:30 in the morning has once again become quite difficult - and as I make my way to the subway in the morning, they sky is dark and gloomy. And it is still very cold. Which is probably why I am still a bit incredulous that this thing called spring is ever going to arrive. It has been a stressful year for the markets so far, and thus for me at work. Though I am not an economist or a strategist, I have a very strong feeling that this sub-prime issue is not going away any time soon and everywhere you look in financial news-sources, the word "recession" turns up a few too many a time and the markets have been steadily declining on the heels of seemingly never-ending bad news. Coupled with it the rising cost of food, fuel and commodities while the consumers are watching their spending - makes for a glum story indeed. Which is probably why a few weeks ago, I had the craving for precisely this kind of a comfort meal: warm, rich, flavorful, with a thick sauce. I've been waxing poetic about braised short ribs to KS and he would nod approvingly, but I could just see in his eyes that he wasn't really following me. Not until he tasted it, did he understand why I have not stopped talking about it. We both had seconds and needless to say there were no leftovers. And because it rained that entire day, this dish was like manna from heaven. It warmed and comforted us. I have to mention here also, that this dish is super easy - all it requires is time. If you can slow-cook this in your Le Creuset or the equivalent for 3+ hours, you are guaranteed something truly amazing. It's pretty much fail-proof. Another note is that I chose not to puree my vegetables as the original recipe suggests because I like my vegetables chunky. And instead of cooking potatoes separately from the short ribs, I cooked them in the same pot, letting them absorb the flavors of the stew. And though I can't get enough of these warm, rich stews, with this vacation coming up next Friday, I just can't wait to leave behind my winter coat and winter eating and put on my bermuda shorts and have an umbrella drink! For one glorious week we'll be basking in the Carribean sun, lazing around on the beach and catching up on reading. Perhaps upon our return, spring will have officially kicked off and I'll have more spring cooking on my mind. But for now, with another rainy day facing us, I'd rather have this warm, comforting meal, over a cold, crisp salad. [...]



escargots a la bourguignonne

2008-03-04T16:04:31-05:00

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I have often joked about how a key to a great tasting meal is one simple ingredient - butter. Well, I think if anything proves me right, it's escargots - where I think about 60% of the dish is melted, herb butter. And while my parents shudder at the idea of people eating snails, KS and I are quite content not only consuming the snail part of this dish, but also the garlicky butter that remains thereafter. For that, plenty of baguette slices are perfect sponges - they sop up the fragrant, golden "sauce" perfectly!

We wanted to make this dish for so long, but lacked those fancy escargots dishes. The mere fact that we purchased them, tells you of our immense love for these snails. We have a rule in the kitchen - most items that serve one purpose only are banned. Thus, no bagel slicers or egg cookers - with the humble apple slicer being one exception. But escargots dishes - we were powerless against their draw. And yet, having now made the escargots at home, I'd like to save you all the expense and tell you a less refined, but no less effective or delicious way to make this dish at home.

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Okay, ready? [The proportions of things are below based on a recipe from 1949(!!!), a time before the evils of cholesterol were discovered, and butter was revered. The paragraph below is just my layman's instructions.]

Get a oven-proof bowl. Put some snails in it. Put enough of the garlicky mixture to cover the snails and so that when the butter melts, the snails are sort of swimming, or luxuriating, if you will, in the buttery pool. Place dish in the oven for 5-7 minutes according to the instructions below. There, this is the un-fancy, cheap, i-don't-need-no-fancy-dish-to-make-escargots way. In fact, I have a feeling that the very first escargots were probably made this way. I mean, who had the foresight to design those fancy dishes? There, I just saved you $40 or so on the cookware, though the escargots themselves will run you about $18 a can, but there's like 60 of them in there - and they don't keep long.

So run along and throw an escargots party already (you know you want to!)- and be sure to invite KS and me!

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