Friday Round Up 9/29/06

Technically, it’s Saturday now. Blame Time Warner. Sorry for the delay…

This week, Columbus Dispatch readers voted City Barbeque as the best brisket in town. I agree wholeheartedly, while admitting that my eating of beef brisket in Columbus has been rather limited. Go ahead and vote in the upcoming week on who has the best cinnamon rolls in town and you might win a gift certificate. This one? Hands down, I’d give it to Omega Artisan Bakery in the North Market. It makes Cinnabon look like Pillsbury.

I was really disappointed to find out Zandy’s Pies had closed. :( Anyone know when/why this happened??

I’m still in the planning stages of my December trip to NYC, and found this great post about cheap eats in NYC at Kottke.org. I think I’m feeling adventurous enough to wander out more than a block or two from my hotel in midtown Manhattan, but still am dead set against taking the subway after looking at this route map and being totally confused by it. Hopefully there are reasonably cheap, non-subway ways to get across town, considering I’ll only be there for 3 days (including flying time) – that only gives me one full day to explore.

Now this is what a cheesesteak is SUPPOSED to look like. I wonder how far Painesville is from Columbus? If it’s a Cleveland suburb, maybe I’ll check it out next weekend if I head up for the Polish Festival.

Adam the Amateur Gourmet presents us with an interesting essay on how people think that dietary fat itself is what makes you fat. The most interesting point of the essay, though – and what I got out of it – is that everything edible is good in moderation. I think that’s going to be my mantra from now on. Everything in moderation.

Great article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the etiquette of taking pictures of you food when you’re in a restaurant. The article prompted a discussion on Food Blog S’cool about the subject. What do I do? I do take pictures in restaurant, with flash when necessary, but try to be discreet and non-annoying about it. In warm weather, I prefer to sit outside (better natural light, no flash needed), or alternatively, I go earlier or later than the normal lunch or dinner rush so I don’t step on others toes. If someone or the proprietor asks (it’s only happened once so far), I just tell them that I like to take pictures of good meals for posterity so I can remember it. If really pushed, I suppose I would mention the blog. If someone asked me to stop, I would – but would remember that, and in the future probably not frequent the place or would order takeout. I’d love to hear your input (either here or in the discussion at Food Blog S’cool) – what do you do about taking pictures in restaurants?

Sam at Becks & Posh talking about food porn as an art form and the lengths some people go to when trying to get a good shot. I agree with Sam, the stuff I post is pretty much the way you’d see it if I set it down in front of you to eat. It’s not always pretty, but it will taste good most of the time. I would love to improve my plating and photography skills, though.

I’m still at odds about the issues on the table in New York – the banning of transfats and the calorie labeling. While I would love to see these changes be made, I think any time you get the government involved in a situation like this, nothing good can come of it. I’d like to see these changes implemented because the market itself bears it out, due to people wanting to know more about what they’re putting into their bodies. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that a huge dinner out with non-diet foods is racked with more calories than you need in a day.

Leslie of Whining & Dining posts her wish list for next year’s farmers market. For the local Columbus area, I’d like to see ramps! Did not find a one this year, and the guy who runs my CSA said I’d probably need to go down to the Athens farmers market to find them next year. Also, more grains, heirloom and strange varieties, more meat and cheese. More fruit. I can’t believe there’s only a few weeks left of this year, although I’m told that some farmers go to the North Market well into December for apples and squash and the like. My last CSA pickup is November 17th, so I’ve got a good 7 weeks left, I suppose.

Some good instructional information for those of us who are still learning new skills: The Ethicurean gives us Produce 101: Storage Tips for Newbies and how to make lard. –
Some recipes for my “to do” list: Creamy Pappardelle with Parmiggiano, Walnut & Parsley from Cumin & Coriander, Dark Chocolate & Fleur du Sel Toasts from Everybody Likes Sandwiches, Bánh Mì Thit Nuong (Vietnamese Barbecued-Pork Sandwich)from The Traveler’s Lunchbox, and Matzo Brie from {the food palate}.

Hear, hear on Alton Brown’s rant on the whole spinach fiasco. I agree wholeheartedly with every word. Spinach is finally beginning to make it’s way back into the stores here in Columbus – I found it amusing that while I was in Trader Joe’s tonight every bag of green stuff had a “contains no spinach” sticker stuck on it. I asked, and they’ll have spinach again next week. Is it too much to hope for that I’ll see some tomorrow at the farmer’s market? We’ll see.

So much to accomplish tomorrow before going to the festival. I’ve got to hit the farmer’s markets in the morning, Penzey’s and the asian market, and trying to find somewhere local that has petit pain. Off to sleep.

Columbus Events 9/29/06 to 10/5/06

Apologies for getting this out a little late today, Roadrunner was cranky last night, so I wasn’t able to work on this until this afternoon. Tons of events this weekend, as we start the month of many festivals. :)

This Weekend

This weekend is a double header, with both the Columbus Italian Festival and the German Village Oktoberfest going on.

The Italian Festival will be held Friday (5pm-11pm), Saturday (Noon-11pm), and Sunday (Noon-6pm) at St. John the Baptist Italian Catholic Church at 720 Hamlet St. (one block west of N. 4th, just north of the I-670 ramp) in Italian Village. Tons of food, entertainment and other activities. Admission is $5 per day for adults, free for children 12 or under accompanied by adults, or you can buy a Passport ticket that gets you in to both the Italian Festival and Oktoberfest all weekend for $10 at local places like Carfagna’s, or $15 at the gate.

The Oktoberfest is also going on Friday (5pm-1:30am), Saturday (Noon-1:30am), and Sunday (Noon-8pm), held at the corner of Grant and Livingston. Plenty of food, entertainment, and the marketplatz and bier garten. Tickets are $5 in advance per day, $8 at the gate, or get the passport, as described above!

Also on Saturday, drop on by to the Westerville FallFest. They’ll have hayrides, games, entertainment and food, and proceeds will benefit the Westerville Fund of the Columbus Foundation. It will be at Alum Creek Park at 221 W. Main St. from 10a-5pm. Call 614.901.6500 for more information.

If festivals aren’t your thing, take a class at Sur La Table. This weeks offerings:
Sept 29 – Flavors of India Series – Cooking With Friends: Indian Dinner Party (Hands On) 6:30p $65
Sept 30 – Everyday Dining: Meals in 60 Minutes or Less (Hands On) 10:30a $65
Oct 2 – Essential Knife Skills (Hands On) 6:30p $65
Oct 3 – Mastering Fish and Shellfish (Hands On) 6:30p $65
Oct 4 – Basic Cooking Series (Part 3 of 3) – Grilling and Roasting (Hands On) 6:30p $195 for whole series

This is late notice, but tonight at 7pm at Barley’s on North High is Ales for Tails, a beer tasting and more to benefit Franklin County Dog Shelter. Barley’s is at 467 N. Highs St. $25, and you can get more information at 614.404.0433 or alesfortales@yahoo.com.

On Saturday, Children’s Hospital is holding its Black Tie Ball. It benefits the Children’s Hospital Behavioral Health Center. Includes dinner, silent auction, dancing and more. Muirfield Country Club, 7:30p-12:30a. Tickets are $75, please call 614.722.2991 or 614.791.1826 for more information.

On October 8th, A Feast of Music, Food and Fun will be held from 4-7pm at 2427 Tremont Rd. to benefit Chamber Music Columbus. It includes panel discussion, music performances, wine tasting, silent auctions and more. Tickets are $75. The registration deadline is Monday October 2nd, so if you’d like to go, please contact them ASAP at 614.267.2267.

This weekend at Carfagna’s, there will be a “Oregon Wines” wine tasting from noon to 4pm on Saturday and 1-4pm on Sunday at their store at 1405 E. Dublin Granville Rd. Samples are 50 cents and up. Call them at 614.846.6340 for more information.

That should be plenty enough to keep you busy in the upcoming week, with something for everyone. As always, if there’s an event you’d like to promote, email me at columbusfoodieATgmailDOTcom.

Until next week, folks…

Becke’s Spontaneous Pasta

Sometimes when I’m cooking, I go into “the zone” – that whirling dervish of creativity where the results don’t always look pretty, but they sure as hell taste good. I had a bunch of stuff in the fridge that I needed to use up, so decided to throw together a concoction, tasting as I went along, to make a pasta creation that I doubt even I will ever be able to recreate.

Becke's Spontaneous Pasta

While I can’t tell you exactly how I made it (a recipe), I can definitely tell you what’s in it, about how much, and when I added it. It made more sauce than I needed, and the rest is in the fridge to be tossed with some gnocchi tonight as a side dish.

I still had some sausage-eggplant mixture left over from the last time I made Baked Ziti, so I took that out of the freezer and thawed it. While it was thawing, I sliced up 2 CSA onions, a yellow and a red sweet pepper from the CSA, and crushed 2 large garlic cloves from the CSA hardneck garlic. I sauteed these in olive oil until they were softened, and then added the sausage-eggplant to the mix. Once this was heated, I added somewhere in the realm of 2-4 tbsp. of good balsamic vinegar to the mix (I prefer Saporoso).

Next, came about a pound of fresh made ricotta cheese from Carfagna’s, and about 1/2 cup of half and half to make it a bit more creamy. A little bit of salt and pepper, about 2 diced tomatoes from my garden. It was still missing something, though – so I added about a cup of tomato sauce.

To finish, I tossed about 2/3 of the sauce with a pound of cooked orechiette, and wilted some CSA arugula and baby spinach into it. Delicious. :)

A Plethora of Pistachio (Sweets)

Ever since we sampled the macarons at the Taste the Future event we attended a couple of weeks ago, my husband I and have been meaning to stop by the Short North storefront of Pistachio Sweets. One glance at their online menu, and it was a sure bet. Since their hours are fairly short (closed by 6pm, closed Sunday and Monday) I armed my husband with a list of things to get on his way to work yesterday and sent him on his merry way. He gave a call to the shop yesterday afternoon, and they promised to set aside the items he wanted. He came home last night with three beautiful boxes.

Boxes

I opened the big box first:

Big Box

Yum! Macarons! I didn’t know that there was a difference between macarons and macaroons until recently: The Traveler’s Lunchbox has a great entry on the subject that explains it better than I can. Parisian style macarons are not the coconut mounds of your youth. They’re difficult to explain because the cookie themselves are complex – a thin crispy outside, a little chewy inside, overwhelmingly (sometimes) sweet filling. It’s all about the levels of texture and flavor, at least to me. I’d already tried the Lemon Pistachio flavor at Taste the Future, so I decided to try a few other flavors: (from left to right) Chocolate Mint, Espresso Gianduja, Amaretto, Rosewater Raspberry ($1 each). My opinions (and bear in mind, taste is purely subjective – something that isn’t my cup of tea may be the best thing you’ve ever tasted)? I didn’t even get to try the Chocolate Mint – husband scarfed it before I had a nibble. The Espresso Gianduja was subtle, but very good. The Amaretto was overwhelmingly cloying – the almond flavor reached up and smacked you in the face, which made me unable to take more than a nibble (this coming from someone who LOVES amaretto). The Rosewater Raspberry was the most interesting of the bunch – nice raspberry flavor with a fleeting taste of what you would imagine the smell of roses would taste like (it kind of reminded me of the Rose Milk lotion my grandmother used when I was younger). Not bad, just different. Not a flavor I’m used to, but one I could learn to really like.

The second row has a couple of canelés ($1 each). They sounded very interesting. And I really wanted to like them, very much so, especially after this post at Chocolate and Zucchini and the rave reviews of Pistachio’s canelés from Lisa at Restaurant Widow. I loved the texture – chewy outside, moist inside, but something was off about the taste of them. I didn’t mind that they weren’t very sweet (as I prefer my desserts less sweet). I don’t know if it was the mace that they sprinkle in the pans, or the fact that they’re so dark (because of the caramelizing), but they just tasted burnt to me. Maybe if I ever make it to Paris I’ll give it another try. My husband tried it and agreed, but he liked his a bit more than I liked mine.

We got three cookies. The one on top is a Chocolate Chunk Crispies cookie ($1), which I didn’t get to try, once again due to the scarfing of aforementioned husband. The middle one, a Fig Oat cookie ($1), reminded me of a cross between a really good oatmeal cookie and really good fig preserves. The hidden one, Double Chocolate Pistachio ($1), was also very good as well.

My favorite dessert of the whole batch is next to the cookies: Chewy Caramel with Salted Cashews ($1.50). Before I rave about them, let me make a little admission first: my favorite desserts in the whole world, and probably my favorite flavor combination ever is that of sweet and salty. It’s why Jeni’s Salty Caramel will always be my favorite ice cream. It’s why even those most Hershey’s chocolates are dreck, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. It’s why I loved Butter Pecan ice cream growing up. It’s why I love Kettle Corn. Yum. And this confection is one of the best I’ve had, ever – hands down. It’s like taking a pint of Jeni’s Salty Caramel and compressing it down to a 2×2 square. Fantastic. Chewy as heck, but fantastic. The Belgian Chocolate Brownie ($2) (below the caramel) hasn’t been tasted yet.

Now, to the second box:

Box #2

Clockwise, from the top: Caramelized Pineapple Bay Leaf Vanilla Bean Eclair ($3). I’m sorry, this just wasn’t my cup of tea. Too many flavors going on at once, and really hard to eat (and finish). Of course, I’ve never been a huge eclair person to begin with.

Next, a Bittersweet Chambord truffle ($1.50). I didn’t really taste much Chambord, but it was so chocolatey, and so rich that I couldn’t finish it in one sitting. I love my chocolate dark and bittersweet, and it delivered on that count.

My favorite in this box was the Caramel Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch ($4), for the same reasons that I liked the Caramel – salty. :) Very dense, very rich, very good.

The final box contained a Milk Chocolate Caramel with Fleur de Sel Terrine ($20). I don’t have a picture of the whole thing, but here’s a couple of slices:

Box #3

Now, what really surprised me is that I thought that this would be my favorite (because of the salt thing), but I was wrong – it was good, but not outstanding. I wouldn’t walk away from it if someone else was serving it, but I’ll probably not buy it again.

If you’re over in the Short North, stop by there and pick up a few things and conduct your own taste test. The concept is really unique to the Columbus market, and the prices are reasonable.

If you’d like to go: Pistachio Sweets, 680 North Pearl Street, Columbus 43215. 614-220-9070.

– UPDATE –

As of Labor Day 2007, Pistachio has changed its name to Pistacia Vera, and moved its locale from the Short North to German Village. They still make all the great stuff they made before, plus some new items. Here’s the new information:

Pistacia Vera, 541 S. Third St, Columbus (German Village). 614.220.9070

Oma’s Layered Ground Beef & Cabbage

I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic lately – pretty non-adventurous about making anything new for the most part, more content to make comfort food that reminds me of places I’ve long since left behind and people that have long since left me behind when passing out of this world.

For some reason, much of this need for comfort has manifested itself in trying to recreate dishes my Oma (grandmother) used to make me as a child. Unfortunately, many of her recipes died with her in 1995, and because she always put her own little spin on things (my Oma was the ultimate foodie!), recipes I find online are pretty much useless. For instance, her roladen was stuffed with meat and wrapped in bacon, rather than stuffed with pickles and mustard like most traditional recipes.

She pretty much had her own “meat mix” going, her ground beef mixture that worked wonderfully in everything from frikadellen to rouladen to layered cabbage and beef and everything in between. It was the key to most of her recipes, and the one thing that I have been able to perfect, from sensory recall alone. When I hit upon just the right combination of flavors, I knew it immediately.

Oma's Layered Ground Beef & Cabbage

This is one of her specialties, one that the whole family loves, from my mother to my sisisters to my husband and everyone in between. My mom translated what she could of the recipe, but I’ve added my own touches to it, which I’ll mention after the recipe details. While my mom’s version is good – the changes I made improve it, I think. But I’ll let you decide for yourself. :)

Oma’s Layered Ground Beef & Cabbage

1 tbsp. shortening
1 large head cabbage
2 lbs. ground beef
1 c. bread crumbs
1 egg
Maggi seasoning
Butter
Caraway seeds
Salt
Pepper

Boil cabbage in a pot of water and pull off leaves as cabbage softens. Save the liquid from the cabbage. Mix meat with bread crumbs, egg, Maggi, salt and pepper. Melt a pat of shortening at bottom of Dutch oven. Layer leaves along bottom of pan, then sprinkle caraway seeds. Layer meat, then cabbage again until you have 3 layers of cabbage, and 2 layers of meat. Dot with butter between layers. Add enough liquid down sides to keep it moist. Cook in covered Dutch oven on medium heat for at least an hour, or until meat is no longer pink and cabbage is tender. Serve with potatoes.

Now, here is what I do differently:

I do use ground beef, but about 3 lbs. instead of 2 lbs. I use 2 heads of cabbage instead of 1, and I peel the tough outer leaves, then thinly slice all the inner leaves until it’s shredded. After I’ve drained the parboiled cabbage shreds, I also parboil the outer leaves. For the meat mixture, I use 1 egg, about a tablespoon of Maggi (at least, more to taste), 2 tsp. of salt, and about 3/4 tsp. of pepper. Instead of breadcrumbs, I use 6 day old kaiser rolls (preferably caraway rolls) soaked in milk until soft. I use my Le Creuset 5-quart dutch oven, and line the bottom with the outer leaves before doing the layers. I do use the butter liberally, and definitely sprinkle caraway seeds. I use the remaining outer leaves to put on the top, don’t use the cabbage juice at all, and instead of cooking it on the stovetop, I cook it in the covered dutch oven in the oven at 350 for 90 minutes.

If you do try it both ways, be sure to drop me a comment and tell me which version you prefer!

Pernil & Arroz con Frijoles Colorados (Roast Pork with Rice and Red Beans)

When I moved to Columbus from Vineland, New Jersey over ten years ago, I moved away from much of the culture and the heritage I grew up with. Vineland, a small town smack dab in the middle of South Jersey, has very large Puerto Rican and Italian populations, so much of the food you could get there was – yup, you guessed it – Puerto Rican or Italian. Authentico. Which means that this New Jersey transplant is very disappointed when it comes to Columbus’ (non-existant) Puerto Rican cuisine. And the only place I’ve been able to find authentic (at least the sort of authentic I grew up with) Italian food in town is at Carfagna’s – and that’s not even a restaurant. I do admit, The Florentine comes somewhat close, but something is still missing from their food that the stuff from Carfagna’s has in spades – the comfort factor. Carfagna’s meat ravioli and meatballs and to die for marinara taste like they could have come from your Nonna’s kitchen – you can almost hear the “manga, manga – you’re too skinny” as you’re trying to push yourself away from the table after your second serving. And no, I’m neither Italian or Puerto Rican – but the great thing about Italian and Puerto Rican mothers is that they pretty much adopt anyone who spends any amount of time at their house as one of their own. Luckily, most of my friends were Italian or Puerto Rican growing up, so I learned to cook from the best. :) But I digress.

Roast Pork and Rice and Beans

I miss Puerto Rican food. I miss going to the Margarita Penalvert Food Deli on the Boulevard in Vineland and getting enough food for $5 to last me two or three meals (a small rice and beans, for example, fills your average sized white styrofoam take out container to overflowing). A large? More than enough for a large family. They’ve got the best roast pork and rice and beans in town. This dish is dedicated to them. The best of the best, nothing ever comes close, you’ve got to eat it to believe it comfort food dish of all time. This is the dish you can make for a potluck and have everyone in the office ask you for a recipe.

First things first. To make pernil (roast pork), it’s important to have the right cut of meat. Traditionally, it’s made with a pork shoulder (preferably with skin on) or picnic roast, but can be also be made with a pork blade roast. Whatever you use, be sure that it’s a fatty cut, as that (combined with the paste below) is where most of your flavor is coming from. Pork loin won’t cut it for this dish. A 3-5 lb. roast should do quite nicely. If you pick a cut that isn’t pork shoulder with skin, make sure the meat has a nice fat layer on it, which you want to leave untrimmed. This definitely isn’t diet food.

Making Pernil Step 2

The most important component of the dish (other than the meat) is the paste – this is where your flavor and seasoning is coming from. This is what makes the dish so memorable. You’ll need at least four packets of Sazon (with Annato), a container of Goya Adobo seasoning (both can be found locally at either Giant Eagle or one of the many Latino markets in town), and a bottle of olive oil. Empty the packets into a bowl, add an equal amount of Adobo, and enough olive oil to form a paste. At this point, keep adding Adobo and olive oil to maintain the paste consistency (you want it to be able to be spread easily, but don’t want it to be extremely watery) until you have about the amount of paste shown in the picture below.

Making Pernil Step 1

You can make more if you like your meat highly seasoned, but this is the minimum amount you want to be making. I’ve left the fork in the picture for scale.

Place the pork roast in a bowl slightly larger than the roast. With a sharp knife, pierce the roast deeply on all sides, twisting the knife once it’s inserted. Use your fingers to widen the holes. Scoop up the adobo-oil paste and stuff it into the holes until all holes are thoroughly filled with the paste. Rub any remaining paste all over the outside of the roast.

Making Pernil Step 3

Return the roast to the bowl, and fill the bowl 2/3 full of white distilled vinegar. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and place it in the refrigerator overnight, turning the roast over after 4 hours. Here is a picture of what it will look like after marinating all night.

Making Pernil Step 4

Remove the roast from the bowl and discard the vinegar. Place the roast in a 5-6 quart dutch oven or similar oven-safe pot, cover tightly, and let cook in 275 degree oven for 6-8 hours or until the meat is fall-apart tender and a good amount of liquid is in the pot with the roast.

Making Pernil Step 6

This liquid is very much like a highly seasoned au jus that you can use to season the meat and/or red beans and rice by drizzling some on top.

With this dish, you’ll want to serve a side of Rice and Beans. Typically, this is served with Arroz con Gandules, but we prefer Red Beans and Rice, because it complements the dish so well.

Red Beans and Rice

1/3 cup olive oil
2 packets Goya chicken bouillon
4 packets Sazon with Annato
3/4 cup Goya (or comparable brand) Sofrito
3/4 cup Goya (or comparable brand) Recaito
2 cups dry medium grain rice
1 15oz. can small red beans, drained
2 cups water

Combine oil, bouillon, Sazon, sofrito, recaito, and rice in nonstick saucepan over medium heat until mixture is thoroughly combined with rice and rice has taken on a deep red color.

Add two cups water. Add drained can of red beans and stir well. Cover and cook on stovetop at medium heat until almost all liquid has been absorbed. Turn the rice and beans from top to bottom, reduce heat to the lowest setting possible, cover and cook 10 minutes. Turn the rice and beans from top to bottom again then cover and cook an additional 10 minutes. Remove from heat and serve. The adobo pork’s au jus makes an excellent seasoning for this side dish.

The pork freezes well, so if you have a small family, don’t let the fact that it’s a roast put you off from making it. It really is easier than it sounds, and your taste buds will thank you.

Weekend Dog Blogging #53

Weekend Dog Blogging is an event held by Cate of Sweetnicks, and here in week two, Diva and Sadie are doing pretty much what they always do – relax and lay around. :) Yes, my dogs are both one-trick ponies, but they’re *cute* one-trick ponies. Check out her roundup of all the dogs on Sunday night.

I finally got Diva to relax and sit still long enough to get a great picture. Here she is laying with me on the couch, with hubby snapping the picture this time.

Diva 9/22/06

Sadie, at the other end of the couch, perks up her ears as she hears something going on outside.

Sadie 9/22/06

 

Weekend Cat Blogging #68

Since Clare is still MIA, this round of Weekend Cat Blogging is being hosted by Sarah of the chefsarahjane blog. Be sure to check out her site for this weekend’s roundup.

This week, we have one Frankie hanging out on top of the bench at the end of the bed,

Frankie 9/22/06

while Sammy hides underneath the bench, unsure of what’s going on and where all the bright flashes are coming from:

Sammy 9/22/06

And as soon as I left the room with the camera, it was back to business as usual for the Terrible Twosome. :)

ETA: For some strange reason, I can never post comments to blogs hosted on Blogger because the visual verification and/or the sound verification shows broken links for me. Hopefully Sarah will be able to find this on trackback or someone will be kind enough to post the URL for my entry in her comments as I cannot find an email link on her page.

Friday Round Up 9/22/06

Congratulations to (sorta) local food blogger Barbara of Tigers & Strawberries on the birth of her beautiful new daughter Kat.


This week, Columbus Dispatch readers voted Giammarco’s as the best spaghetti in town. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of the place, I’ll definitely need to check them out. Now, they want your input on who has the best beef brisket in Columbus. My vote definitely goes to City Barbeque! Cast your vote and be entered to win a restaurant gift certificate.

Let’s just suffice it to say that my chicken soup experiment earlier this week was a total failure. Which is odd, because usually even though my chicken soup doesn’t usually come out great, it at least tastes better than dirty dishwater. Next time around, I’m definitely going to use Meghan of Bay Area Bites recipe for Shiksa Matzo Ball Soup.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Inspired by this post by Tania of The Candied Quince, I made a Rahmapfelkuchen (note: link broken so recipe below):

Rahmapfelkuchen

Rahmapfelkuchen

Crust:
1 ½ c. all purpose flour, sifted
5 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. grated lemon zest
2/3 c. butter
1 large egg yolk
1 tbsp. milk

Filling:
½ c. bread crumbs
2 tbsp. butter, melted
4 c. tart apples, sliced
1 tbsp. lemon juice
¼ c. sugar
¼ c. seedless raisins, soaked in ¼ c. rum for ½ hr
¼ c. rum
3 large eggs, beaten
1/3 c. sugar
1 ¾ c. milk

To make crust, mix flour, sugar and lemon rind. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg yolk and 1 tbsp. of milk, mix gently to form a dough. Pat into bottom of a 10 inch springform pan that has sides only greased. Press dough up sides of pan for 1 inch.

To make filling, toss together bread crumbs and melted butter. Spread evenly over pastry crust. Toss apple slices, lemon juice, and ¼ cup of sugar. Spread apples over crumbs. Drain raisins, reserving rum, and sprinkle raisins over apples. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 15 minutes. Beat eggs and sugar until thick and lemon colored. Stir in milk and reserved rum. Pour custard over apples and bake for 45 to 60 minutes at 350F until custard is set. Cool completely before serving. Do not remove springform pan sides until cool.

and inspired (to the point of actually going out and buying bananas to purposely let them overripen) by Faith’s Ultimate Banana Bread at Mekuno Cooking, I made three loaves of banana nut bread:

Banana Nut Bread

My pics didn’t come out nearly as pretty as either of theirs, but the desserts sure tasted good! The recipes for both can be found on their blogs. If this is indicative of the cooking skills of other food bloggers, then I’m certainly impressed!

Must have this. I love fresh soft pretzels, but mine always come out looking mutated. I know what Alton says about unitaskers, and this is a unitasker if there ever was one, but I’m still tempted.

It never ceases to amaze me exactly how much I have to learn from other food bloggers. The amount of information out there is staggering, and each week I’m humbled by the knowledge of everyone else. For example, Maria from Garlicster gives us a lesson on the different types of garlic. I just discovered hardneck garlic this summer through the CSA I belong to. I’d love to try the taste test myself. Ditto with trying different types of honey.

Maki from I was just really hungry tells us how to navigate a farmer’s market. Even though she lives in Switzerland, her advice applies no matter what part of the world you’re in.

Love, love, love this post on Slashfood that informs us how and where to store produce in a handy printable chart. Needless to say this is getting printed out and stored on my fridge. Speaking of Slashfood, I have tons of leftover rice from making fried rice last night, I really need to use it up by trying this recipe for rice pudding. I’ve never had any success with making rice pudding before (it always turns to scrambled eggs before it’s done), but this seems worth trying because it doesn’t call for any eggs and the picture looks so yummy and creamy.

Also love the concept highlighted by Miss Ginsu The Hedonista in her post earlier this week about local growers who offer online ordering. Of course, my dream store would have nothing but local produce and meat and dairy, and all other items for sale would be produced by local artisans. A girl can dream, can’t she? The farmer’s markets come close, but I’m thinking of something indoors that isn’t dependent on the farmers being there to man the stands.

I’ve been wondering what to do to promote my blog around town – meaning, sometimes when I talk to different vendors, people I run into, etc. in the course of normal conversation it comes up that I have a food blog, which always leads to them asking for my URL – so at that point, its a mad scramble through a messy purse to find a pen and some scrap paper to write down the URL. I’ve been playing around with the idea of printing up some business cards at home with just the URL on them. And then I ran into this. Flickr MiniCards. This is PERFECT. Food porn on one side, my URL on the other. You can get 10 free if you have Flickr Pro, or order 100 for $20. It’s a bit tricky to crop my existing pics to fit the format of the cards, but then again, it gives me a whole new ratio to take pictures in, too. I went with 4 each of 25 different pictures, but you can choose as many or as few pictures as you want.

I am really, really, really craving red meat. Steak. Medium rare. I don’t usually like sauces sullying up my steak, but this recipe for Filet Steaks with an Irish Whisky & Cream Pan Sauce from Sheri at Pork Cracklins has got me drooling. And Lord have mercy, a spinach salad on the side would truly hit the spot.

Speaking of spinach. I wanted to save this part for last, as I’ve got quite a bit to say on the matter, much of which has been said by so many others, and much more eloquently than I could ever put it.

I’m not making light of the people who have gotten really sick or died because of the E. coli outbreak, but personally, I think this whole spinach thing has gone from what should have been a limited recall, to out and out hysteria and overreaction. The fearmongering of the media and regulatory agencies has made it so that I likely won’t see any fresh spinach salads for far into the future. I don’t know if spinach is in season currently in Ohio, but if it is, I’m definitely going to buy my share. On the news tonight, they said that fresh spinach won’t be offered in stores until current harvesting and processing methods are improved. Frozen spinach just doesn’t cut it. This just reinforces my belief that eating local is the best. I trust my local farmers. I have much more to say on the whole subject, and am still trying to think and process the whole thing in my mind.

Until next week, folks…