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Archive for November, 2009

Anyone up for an upper or lower GI tract cleansing? I think I am tired of eating. These spells hit me now and again. I get tired of trying to think of what to eat, or figuring out what my body wants as fuel. Usually, this occurs after we eat out a lot, or days of marathon eating. No more turkey, please…at least until January?

The process of selecting food for oneself, in the days that it’s difficult (how spoiled we are in this day in age?), makes me question how I work with people, albeit in pastry, where you’re actually limited in exposure to unpalatable foods you’re professionally required to handle (slippery pieces of chicken, monkfish, cow intestinal lining), who have a large number of hangups about food. Creme fraiche, yuck, it smells bad. Banana? Ew, they say. Yes, banana, the one benign, portable universal food (ubiquitous, but only for now…do you know they’re going to disappear?). One doesn’t like, of all things, maple syrup. (“What do you put on your pancakes, then?” I asked. “The fake stuff…I know I’m weird.”) And that’s just the stuff we handle in the sweets department, never mind the animal body parts being tossed about in savory.

But who am I to judge? On the flip side, I spent some of the weekend grimacing while this guy on the Travel Channel gnawed on a turtle head, beaver meat, and junebugs on sticks. And I’ve had my own hangups, sure. For a long time since youth, the tastes of carrots and celery didn’t sit well with me—I found them too strongly herbal and fragrant. But whatever I didn’t like, I would force myself to eat because I felt I ought to like them. My parents always wanted my sister and me to be good omnivores and I didn’t want to be excluded from any experience. Plus, didn’t I want healthy eyes and to stay skinny? (I had once read, during high school when thin-ness mattered more, that one expends more calories chewing a piece of celery than consuming it.)

I still don’t love raw carrots, but I no longer want to hurl when I eat them. And in my third decade of life, I am just learning to like fennel. They’re often chopped into salads for family meal, and they help digest all the grease and acid that went down before it. Mmm, digestion.

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Cornbread! Ain't nuthin' wrong with that.

I’m sorry. It’s been awhile.

Last week, my legs were about to give out after a day off from some long, long nights but I still needed an accompaniment to turkey chili. So I cracked open Mollie Katzen’s Still Life With Menu Cookbook and made the Simple Corn Bread recipe. And indeed-y, it was smoove-as-buttah sailing: Mix dry stuff. Mix wet stuff. Combine. Put in oven. Wait. Cool. Stuff in mouth. If I had some canned or fresh corn, some cheddar cheese, or jalapeno or roasted peppers, it would’ve been corn bread squared, but so it is.

But pardon me, I’m burying the lede here. If you want a revelation in sweet edible form, you should really try the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake recipe from the November 4th “A Good Appetite” column from The New York Times.

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake, ready for its dramatic closeup

I was really intrigued by it because the cake has a yeast-based crust. After reading about it, I just talked about making it for two weeks, but in the end, I was also too tired to actualize the idea of bringing the creation to life, so the bf decided to take matters into his own hands and make it late one night. It took awhile for the bottom to proof and rise sufficiently; when it was finally done, it was nearly 1:30am. I really wanted to be asleep by that time, but the warm bite fresh out of the oven was worth it, and it was nice to be lulled to sleep by the sweet scent of cake.

Gooey St. Louis

Taste-wise, it’s pretty damn heavenly: It has the scent and flavor of caramel from the butter and sugar, and the corn syrup gives it the right chewy-ness. It’s all offset by the hardy, enriched bread-y cake base.

There are still some segments left in the freezer, but bit by bit, they’re disappearing into some happy maws.

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Cook it!

A guide to “cool” cookbooks from Utne Reader, one of those magazines I should probably subscribe to if it weren’t for the piles of oppressive New Yorkers and Harpers growing like healthy beanstalks all over the apartment. Did you know cookbooks, too, have a season (as per the article)?

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In theory, Zabar’s take of the challah bread in the form of a menorah is a fun idea. It’s probably hard, though, to make the bread rise so that it doesn’t look like eight nights of phalli? Take a look and tell me what you think.

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True to the tagline of this blurg, these three months in the kitchen have been sweet and tough, and it’s been really tough on my feet. When I went to see the podiatrist, he x-rayed them and told me the film shows I have D-size width feet (Oh? Two notches from EEE, really?) plus super-high arches, which make shoe shopping that much harder and ongoing. I’m currently rotating four pairs of shoes, not because they’re all comfortable, but because one pair will hurt a part of me—lower back, arches, hips—less than the other pair at any given time. As if this isn’t a pain in the ass by itself, I just noticed two little knobs (of bone? alien?) sticking out the inner side of my left feet today, right underneath the ankle bone. (‘WTF is THAT???!!!’)

Yeah.

Orthotics would’ve cost $440 with my old insurance, of which I just let go. I’m waiting for my new insurance to kick in, any day now, and then I’ll literally run, albeit with a limp, to the podiatrist. How’s that complicated health care bill coming along, Senate?

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I resent the fact that it’s not even Thanksgiving yet and store windows have holiday displays up. I would’ve been resentful of this e-mail from Sur La Table as well, except these ornaments are pretty darn cute, particularly the wooden rolling pin and the toaster one. Can I just say, though, that pastry chefs don’t all look like that?

 

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My friend J. wanted to meet for lunch at Tal’s Bagels near 54th and 1st today, but when I rounded the corner to look for the deli, I really wanted to go to Financier Patisserie two doors down. “Can we go in for just a second?” I asked her after we downed some tasty but humble split pea soup and bagel with tuna salad at Tal’s. The place was alight with the most beautiful and tight (dare I employ such a slangy adjective?) classic French pastries behind a sparkly pane of glass, all the goodies so close yet so far away. Everything looked delectable and shiny with apricot glaze nappage, but one really caught my eye because I had never seen it before: the Adrienne, which looked like a Napoleon with pistachio mousse. J. really wanted a coconut macaroon quickly before she had to head back to work (not a French macaron, which were also available), and when I asked for it by name—“A coconut rocher, please”—the counterkeep, in a French accent, asked, “What?? What did you say?” in such a distasteful way that I wondered if 1) I was pronounching rocher right (ro-shay) and 2) I should really be getting the Adrienne, non? Tant pis. We gobbled down the macaroon split right down the middle (J. had asked them to cut it, and one of the cash register people half-joked to the other, “Cutting costs extra.”) in the window seats facing 1st Ave., then we had to bid a quick farewell. So, not quite the right substitute for fully relishing all the flavors of an apple galette at Gerard Mulot or some expensive sweet at Laduree overlooking Oh Champs-Elysee, but at least I know now where to go (five locations in NYC) for the closest thing.

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