I love carpaccio, the raw beef “salad” that has become one of the must-have dishes on all Italian restaurant menus today. It’s actually hard to believe that the dish is only 62 years old; which makes it a baby compared to most of Italy’s equally famous dishes, most of whose recipes have been passed down from grandmother to daughter to granddaughter for generations. Carpaccio, unlike most of Italy’s most famous dishes, was invented in a restaurant. In one of my favourite restaurants in the world in fact — Harry’s Bar in Venice.
I have probably used this Dutch baby recipe every week since I first received a copy of Herbivoracious, fellow blogger Michael Natkin’s vegetarian cookbook, a few months ago. As T’s appreciation for food gradually extends beyond purees and other soft foods, I have amassed a range of breakfast recipes that appeal to both T and CH. Michael’s Dutch baby ticks a number of vital boxes for me.
The first time I paid attention to the word ‘quiche’ was way back in the early eighties, and I did not even know how to pronounce it then. It was from the title of a book, countless copies of which were stacked on a table as I entered a Barnes & Noble store in Fox Hills Mall in Culver City, California.
One of the things that my lovely wife S likes me to do is make char siu (Chinese roast pork). It’s one of the things I feel I can be immodest about. Over the years, I’ve really perfected the art of making it. She’s always bringing home gorgeous fatty slabs of pork neck from Huber’s Butchery for me to turn into yummy hunks of Chinese roast pork. Because we always have char siu in the freezer, I decided recently that I wanted to learn how to make char siu bao. I figured it was something we’d enjoy, and if I knew what went into it, something we could feed our son.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that, while attending the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival, S and I had eaten one of the best oxtail stews we’d ever had in our lives. It was prepared by Chef Mark Jensen of the very famous Vietnamese restaurant Red Lantern, which is in Sydney, Australia. Traditionally, Bo Kho is made with cuts like brisket or shank. It’s also one of those traditional dishes that has no really defined and universal recipe. While certain ingredients might appear in most dishes, all mothers (and grandmothers) and chefs who make Bo Kho seem to have slightly different ways of making theirs. And, of course, every Vietnamese friend you have will swear that his mother’s version is simply the best in the world.
This is one of those recipes that I reckon works for both papa and toddler. I’m constantly trying to find snacks for T (and CH) that aren’t packed with sugar. These savoury madeleines from Patricia Wells—inspired by Anne-Sophie Pic of the century-old Maison Pic in Valence, no less—fit the bill. They are an easy-to-make treat that T can’t get enough of.
When I was counting down my favourite meals of last year, I wrote that one of them was had at Neil Perry’s very sexy Chinese restaurant, Spice Temple. While I had originally gone in slightly skeptical, I left a believer. And while the food may not have been the most authentic, it certainly had flavour, and a lot of heart.
Since then, and because of that visit, my hot and hungry spouse S and I have been cooking more and more from Perry’s Chinese cookbook, Balance and Harmony: Asian Food. It was a book that we had originally purchased (before our meal at Spice Temple) because it was, well, pretty. As cookbook collectors, we occasionally buy texts not because we want to cook from them but because of the pictures, or the layout and design, or because we have all of the chef’s other books, or for any number of reasons. Neil’s recent books are beautiful. They’re a joy to look at, with clean design and gorgeous photos. And so, while we had poured over Balance and Harmony: Asian Food several times, we had never intended to actually use it as a real reference. When we wanted to cook Chinese, we usually turned to authorities like Barbara Tropp, Fuchsia Dunlop or Grace Young. But after that meal at Spice Temple, we decided to give Perry’s book a try. And we’ve been really happy we did.
To pick up a tangential thread from one of Matt’s recent (and most fantabulous) posts, last week, I received an email from a publisher congratulating me for having been shortlisted by them to contribute to a cookbook/guide to the best food blogs on the Web that they are producing. The email (rather amusingly) said that they spent 3 months researching the Web in order to best determine which blogs would be selected. (Please. I could get an intern to spend less than a week and produce a list of the world’s best food blogs–especially since all these great resources already exist). The letter essentially suggested that I should feel honoured to be included in this project and that while the publisher could not afford to pay any of its contributors, fame and fortune would be ours. Or in their words, “We believe the benefits you receive in terms of exposure and satisfaction will make involvement worthwhile.”
The publisher further outlined 3 reasons why a blogger like me should feel special about being part of this project.
“The ‘why’ for you is three-fold:
1. To be a part of the printed world. There aren’t many things better than seeing your words and photos in ink on a page, and on the shelf in bookstores.
2. To let the world know about your blog, and drive traffic to your site. The inclusions in <TITLE OF BOOK> will be deemed by us to be the best blogs on the internet. Make sure your blog is one of them.
3. You have nothing to lose. No risk, no cost, not even much effort. You have already created the content, and we want to maximise its exposure for you, without any risk to you.”
When I was in the 5th grade, each student in my science class was given a small quail’s egg and asked to look after it. The eggs were housed in a large incubator. We were to ensure that our assigned egg would develop properly and were asked to study the hatching process. When the teeny tiny baby quails were finally hatched, we were given a few weeks to play with the super cute baby birds (and study them) before the little suckers were brought to “the wild” and set free. Of course, as I think back, I really don’t know if what our teachers told us was the truth. Where in the world in or even around New York City would you take 50 or 60 baby quail to set them free? Were they brought to a pretty little farm in upstate New York? Or let loose in a lovely patch of forest? Or (heaven forbid but potentially more probable) sold to some very happy butcher, who turned our little friends into delectable goodies waiting to be picked up by some greedy gourmand?
Of course, when I was 9 years old, I could never have fathomed eating those cute little critters. Now though, older, cynical, and much more omnivorous, I’m a big fan of eating quail. I really like the slight gameyness of quail as well as the tenderness of the meat when cooked just right.