September 24, 2012
The word “double” in the name of a recipe always elicits a sense of mischievous anticipation and entitlement from me. I feel like I’m 6 years old again and allowed to eat dessert before dinner. Please allow me to demonstrate this sentiment with a little experiment. First, read this list of food items:
- Fudge Brownies
- Apple Pie
- French Fries
August 28, 2012
If I had to guess which pantry item I use with the most frequency and enthusiasm, it would be either tahini or chickpea flour.
Tahini is an obvious choice for someone who lived in the Middle East and loved the food. I use it in traditional ways—hummus, tahina, moutabbal, chicken fatteh—but also in some pretty unusual concoctions that arose, as all great ideas have, from desperation.
My favorite thing to use tahini for is salad dressing. I mix the tahini with lemon juice or vinegar (it thickens to a paste), and then thin it with water and more vinegar if necessary to make a very flavorful, creamy dressing that’s perfect on a number of salads. Sometimes I’ll add chopped herbs, like parsley or cilantro, or spices, like coriander and cumin. Always salt and pepper. Any type of vinegar is fine—I’ve used apple cider, red wine, and rice wine. If you ever find yourself out of olive oil and need to make a dressing, this is a great solution. But I suppose I’m the only person who runs out of olive oil before tahini. Continue reading
January 30, 2012
Being a gumshoe gastronomer often involves questioning the seemingly immutable facts of food and cooking. Last week I defied the laws of baking by making cake in a crock pot. This week I’d like to challenge the fundamentals of another beloved food—pizza. Specifically, is a pizza’s identity inextricably linked with cheese?
I began thinking about questions of identity in college, when I took a course on Buddhism with Robert Thurman (yes, Uma Thurman’s father). Professor Thurman is an engaging, eccentric, and brilliant man, and every one of his classes had memorable moments. One in particular has stayed with me. Thurman was trying to explain the “universal self,” a Buddhist identity construct in which all beings are one and no person has an individual self. Many of us were struggling with this concept—this was, after all, an American university full of competitive overachievers. Confronted with the wrath of a particularly incensed student, Thurman used a graphic analogy to get his point across; as I remember, he asked the student if his face would still be his face if it didn’t have a nose.
So, now I will pose a similar and equally important philosophical question: Is pizza still pizza without the cheese? You may be thinking no, but I’m hoping my recipe for cheeseless Red Curry Pizza will convince you otherwise.
January 22, 2012
If you read last week’s post, you know I have a problematic relationship with ovens and that this has led me to experiment with alternative ways of making dishes that are traditionally baked or roasted. Ovenless these last few weeks, my focus turned to cake. After all, two weeks without cake? The horror!
I do realize I could have bought cake. And that there are plenty of desserts that don’t require baking—mousse, panna cotta, no-bake cheesecake, stovetop pudding, ice cream, to name a few. And I’m quite sure that in the past I have survived more than two weeks without eating cake. No one has ever died of cake withdrawal that I’m aware of.
However, the inability to eat or cook something, for whatever reason, makes me crave it all the more. When I was living in Egypt, I made my own ricotta cheese, rolled out pasta with a rolling pin until my hands were the color of boiled lobsters, and fried tortillas to make chips for guacamole (actually, tortilla chips are available in Cairo, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend $7 on a bag of crumbled Tostitos). And so, for me, not being able to bake a cake is a challenge, not an inconsequential irritation. Thus began my crock-pot cake journey that resulted in these delectable Raspberry-Vanilla Pudding Cakes.