July 2010

George directing 790 xxx

7.31.10 Shock & Awe

photos by anna raugalis
Readers from the early days may recall a post I wrote about my husband, a talented filmmaker and true gentleman. Well, here he is again, this time featured for completing his first narrative short film, Aftershock, which he wrote, produced and directed. (Also a DP, he decided to have someone else shoot it as he kinda had his hands full.) I am so excited for him, and have every confidence it will get into festivals and receive the acclaim it deserves. The film tells the bittersweet story of a man who loses his family in an earthquake in China, and later finds himself struggling as an immigrant in New York City. Read more about it, find out about future screenings, and see some beautiful stills and on-set photos here.
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photos by gluttonforlife

7.30.10 Jammin'

Having already waxed poetic about peaches, I feel I must give these luscious apricots their due. Seldom have I seen such perfect specimens, firm yet yielding, their golden hue tinged with a pink blush. I find that so often apricots can be mealy and tasteless, but these are a revelation: sweet-tart, juicy, with a delicate perfume all their own. I came away from the farmstand with 7 quarts and every intention of replicating the vanilla-scented jam my mother-in-law so enjoyed 2 years ago. If you've never made jam, let me just warn you that most recipes call for what seems like an obscene amount of sugar, but there is another way. This time I decided to make a batch using some powdered pectin and relatively small amounts of sugar and honey. Sadly, I wasn't totally thrilled with the results. I found the jam to be less crystalline; it seemed to have a slightly cloudy and over-gelled quality. I probably need to experiment a bit more, with quantities and timing, but I just haven't had the extra time lately. So for now, I'm going to put these up the old-fashioned, and use organic sugar. It's not like jam is something that gets eaten by the cupful anyway...
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7.29.10 Illin'

Few things are worse than a summer cold. The usual trajectory for me is straight from a terrible sore throat to an aggravated chest cough. Lying in bed, feverish and tangled in the sheets, there's nothing I crave more than an icy lemonade. So I stumbled into the kitchen, squeezed 2/3 cup of lemon juice and poured that along with an almost equal amount of raw blue agave nectar into the blender. Then I filled it up with ice, added a cup of water and processed it into a crystalline slurpie. Heaven. With that and a good book (and an antibiotic if need be), I'm on the mend.
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takashi inoue & jake dickson    photos by george billard

7.28.10 Captain Beefheart

The very day the Times gave Takashi a rave review, Dickson's announced it would be co-hosting a special dinner there, featuring an all-beef menu from a single steer it would supply. As a big fan of Dickson's, conscientiously-raised beef, Korean barbecue and adventurous eating, I couldn't really pass up the opportunity. Takashi—the name of the chef and his restaurant—opened in April in Manhattan's West Village, and seems to be occupying a new space in the city's dining landscape. The food is in the style of yakiniku, a Japanese version of Korean barbecue that originated in Japan during the Second World War, when many thousands of Koreans were conscripted into the Japanese army and brought to the island to work. Chef Takashi Inoue's grandmother is Korean and runs a small yakiniku restaurant in Osaka. Takashi came to the United States three years ago to study English, met Saheem Ali—then a theater director, now the restaurant’s general manager—and together they opened this small restaurant. The quality of the meat on offer is fantastic. At the dinner we attended, it all came from one steer that had been provided by Dickson's. It was a real adventure in nose-to-tail eating, and one that honored Dickson's fine beef, Takashi's original cooking, and the magnificent animal that made it all possible.
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photos by gluttonforlife

7.26.10 Garden Debutantes

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome The Vegetables—making their first public appearance, still dewy and radiating the blush of youth! All the months of labor are paying off. The convergence of so many elements—sun, rain, nitrogen, compost, vigilance, love—has worked its wonderful alchemy. In a beautiful act of symmetry that I find rather awesome, the fruits of our toil go back into our bodies. I hope you enjoy this little photo gallery of vegetable portraits.
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photos by gluttonforlife

7.24.10 Peachy Keen

A bowl of white peaches sat on the counter, their rosy, fuzzy curves as innocent and perfect as those of a child. Their sweet fragrance would waft towards me whenever I walked past and, after a few days, they hovered at that turning point of ripeness that demands attention. My freezer already held a bag of white peach purée, ready to recreate the bellini of my dreams, exemplified by that one on a freezing January day at the crowded, overheated bar at Harry's in Venice, surely among the most glamorous and decadent meals of my life. (When you go there, stick to bellinis and panini at the bar.) There were six peaches—too many to simply eat out of hand now that they were on the verge of going soft. How then to take advantage of these delicate creatures?
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mexican limes

7.23.10 Sopa de Lima

Not as in Lima, Peru, as in Mexican lime. I had a reader request for Yucatecan sopa de lima, the Mexican version of Jewish penicillin, and I was happy to oblige, in part because I had a big jar of freshly made chicken stock in my fridge. The timing didn't really work out for photos as I only know how to make them look good using natural light. So you'll have to make do with a couple that show the difference between the small, seed-filled Mexican limes (not unlike key limes) and the more ubiquitous Persian limes. Either one works for this soup, and you can even use lemon. I ended up using both. This recipe was not something I grew up eating. My mother's cooking was much more influenced by her mother's New Mexico roots. And although I have eaten this soup in Mérida, I consulted a number of sources to get it right, including Rick Bayless, the Chicago-based chef (and Obama favorite) whose recipes tend to be impeccably researched and very authentic. I can't really say this is his recipe; I changed it too much. His stock calls for pork bones, and for a few other ingredients I didn't have on hand. But in the end, I wound up with a delicious, light but satisfying soup redolent of cinnamon and cumin, with a bit of chile heat, a pleasingly tart finish and a fabulous garnish of crispy tortilla strips. It's great in hot weather and cold, and if you have stock on hand, you can cook up a pot in about an hour.
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roger tory peterson and a young osprey    photo by alfred eisenstaedt

7.22.10 Fielding Questions

I had my first guest-post on a kindred spirit's blog this week. The visionary Peter Buchanan-Smith honored me with a feature on his fascinating blog, Best Made Projects. We share an interest in the natural world, so when he asked me to review a field guide, I chose one by the naturalist and early environmentalist Roger Tory Peterson (seen above holding a movie camera mounted on a gun stock). Peter has kindly allowed me to re-post my review in its entirety here.FIELDING QUESTIONS: A Review of Roger Tory Peterson Field Guides - Eastern ForestsReturning home to Sullivan County from the stinky summer streets of New York City brings a surge of relief and gratitude: the cool night air filled with the rustle of leaves and the throbbing drone of cicadas is a tonic. The woods I now call home are not the same as those I grew up with in the Santa Cruz mountains of California. Fog-shrouded sequoias and wild surf are here replaced with blazing summers and snowy winters among the hawthorn, hickory, maple and pine. The Steller’s jay of my youth is now the equally brazen blue jay of my mid-life. The fence around our small property does little to keep out all the critters that also live here, and long rambles on our kind neighbor’s thousand acres have led to countless discoveries, animal, mineral and botanical.
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photos by george billard

7.19.10 The Ask: Chef Alex Raij

Alex Raij is the chef and co-owner of Txikito, a wonderful restaurant in Manhattan with its own uniquely personal take on Basque cuisine. I have eaten there on many occasions—on my own or with a friend for lunch, with groups big and small for dinner—and she has never failed to impress me with her imaginative and delicious cooking. El Quinto Pino, a more traditional tapas bar, is also part of her empire, which I'm sure will continue to diversify and grow in popularity. Chef Alex was kind enough to agree to an interview and submitted to a quick photo session with G. She even passed along a recipe for the basil pomada served at El Quinto Pino (I've done my best to adapt it faithfully). The result is the first of what I hope will be a series of interviews on gluttonforlife.
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photos by gluttonforlife

7.18.10 Liquid Gold

Once you make chicken stock using this recipe, I promise you'll never want to go back to that stuff in the box, no matter how organic it is or how convenient it seems. You can make an enormous vat of this and freeze small containers or even ice cube trays full of it to use for months. If space is at a premium in your freezer, you can boil the stock down to a concentrated and syrupy demi-glace which can later be reconstituted into stock by adding water. I got this recipe from Nourishing Traditions and it's really quite similar to most chicken stock recipes you'll find, with one key exception: you cook it over very low heat for at least 6 and as many as 24 hours! Turns out this make a huge difference in the flavor, color and consistency of the stock. It's rich, golden, unctuous without being greasy and highly flavored. Of course it helps if you are using a whole chicken, or lots of good bony parts, including necks and feet.