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Archive for May, 2009

Reading: Book Reviews

The Times reviews cookbooks and the hybrid book explosion of memoirs with recipes. On the Big Sur Bakery Cookbook: A Year in the Life of a Restaurant: “And the recipes for breakfast pizza and brown-butter rhubarb bars are worth the cover price (or the airfare).”(I’ll pay both, please.) On Orangette Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life, which a friend gave me for my birthday (thanks J.!) and I read over two sleepless nights: “…can be wincingly twee…Compared with many other bloggers, though, she’s Alice Munro.”

Flip to the back: The third best-selling paperback book this week in Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous is Hungry Girl 200 Under 200, “Two hundred recipes under 200 calories, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack time.” Actually, six out of the ten books in this list are about how to diet and/or lose weight, including Cook Yourself Thin, Naturally Thin, and The Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start. Someone please tell me what’s wrong with this picture.

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At this point you can probably tell I heart Mark Bittman. What’s not to like about unfussy, tasty food? Like playing up strawberries with something other than Cool Whip but with almond creme anglaise per this recipe. I am crazy enough to spend all day making puff pastry from scratch, but more often than not, I’m happy to let plain, barely-touched seasonal fruit take center stage. It reminds me of reading about the slightly ridicul-a and precious Chez Panisse dessert called “White Peach”: just a ripe, juicy peach served on a plate with a knife. Sometimes you pay $8 a peach to realize that restraint and simplicity are key.

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It’s tough times for the dairy farmer, both organic and conventional across the states, though you couldn’t tell from the bustling Ronnybrook Farm stand at the Union Square Farmers Market.  My heart broke when I read there’s a rise in suicides among them and this from an LA Times article:

Some farmers now are thinking of doing the unthinkable — dumping their milk as part of a national protest next week. “If they are not going to allow us to make a living, we will just dump it down the drain,” said Arie DeJong, who owns several dairies and 20,000 cows in California and Arizona. “We just can’t keep losing money like this.”

Luis Bettencourt, an Idaho farmer who owns one of the biggest dairy companies in the nation, is considering dumping two days’ worth of milk production — about 8 million pounds.

What a terrible waste. What about starving, calcium-deprived children whose bodies won’t ever know the happiness of having a glut of milk and/or cookies? How about a good ‘ol fashioned protest with pickets??

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What other sight promises more comfort?

What other sight promises more comfort?

From the May 5th “Freeze That Thought” story in the Times. Contrary to popular belief, something can be frozen and still be fresh. Of course, freezing has its limits, too, like that unidentifiable piece of meat that’s now encrusted with an icy fur coat (…is it…breathing??!). But the freezer is a very valuable tool to bakers. You can freeze cookie and eclair doughs, for instance, for at least a couple of weeks, even months, and the day you bake them you can call tell your friends “Fresh Baked!” and you wouldn’t be lying. Nearly magical!

I fussed only with the chocolate content here: 1/3 milk chocolate chips, 1/3 bittersweet chocolate chips, and 1/3 unsweetened chocolate, because I like it extra bitter to offset the sweetness of the dough—matches my emotional makeup, and indecisiveness. I once watched a demo by Alain Sailhac, former chef at Le Cirque and now dean at FCI, and he said some chefs taught him to fully peel rhubarb and others told him not to peel rhubarb at all, so he now just peels half of it. So, can’t decide between milk, bittersweet, semisweet, or unsweetened? Throw them all in there!

Will bake off and report soon.

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I sincerely would love to sit here in this still, cramped corner in a small NYC apartment and provide some sort of pastry-related distraction to you, dear, lovely, patient readers. Alas, I have a long list of to-dos, and a tic, itching to check all the boxes off. Whether any of the list items will bring me money in the long run I don’t know for now, but here’s to hoping.

In the meanwhile, I will leave you with this photo hodge-podge.

In season now, strawberries at the farmer’s market. Hellooooo fruit tarts and jam and muddled strawberry-rhubarb cocktails.

At Philips Farm on Saturdays

At Philips Farm on Saturdays

This swan holds half a cup of sugar:

Once, an ugly duckling cup measure

Once, it was an ugly-duckling cup measure

And lastly, a word to the wise: Do not add a cocktail mixer as a substitute for actual liqueur to flavor macaron batter. I learned the hard way this weekend, thinking this below would suffice for cassis. But it was fun, eating macarons like those candy buttons that come stuck on paper.

When life gives you lemons, just eat them off the paper

When life gives you lemons, make like candy buttons

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What is a foodie?

Just had this conversation with a friend who works at a food mag. Ah ha! So Gael Greene was the one.

Related, here’s a “list” I submitted to McSweeneys which got rejected. It was my third submission. I can never figure out the criteria; it just has to be funny, smart and subversive, right? They always write back, “This is fun, but we’re not going to use it.” I can take rejection well, because I’ve had plenty of practice, but I’d like to know why. Why don’t they just say, “Dear B., This just isn’t that funny.”??

Food-related words I’d like to have retired from the English language:
* smoothies
* wraps
* smelt
* Padma Lakshmi

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It’s Indian mango season, so I just called Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights to check when they’re arriving: TOMORROW! Last I remember they were $20/box. Totally worth it for the juicy, not-as-pulpy/stringy mangoes for lassis, curds, may-haps a semifreddo?? Wheeee!

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