October 2012

Willa Cather —
There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.
Powder 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

10.29.12 Take A Powder

My fascination with all things powdered and crumbled continues. During our recent dinner at Stone Barns, a tomato powder was served with the bread course, and it added a tart and savory note to the fresh creaminess of their cultured butter. Tomatoes have high levels of naturally occuring glutamates, which are the compounds reponsible for the full, rounded, "meaty" flavors known as umami. It's a big part of what we all love about things like Parmesan, mushrooms and soy sauce. So after making and freezing loads of tomato sauce, I used the last few scarlet beauties of the year to make a jar of powerfully red tomato powder. Sprinkled on a piece of cheese or—mixed with a little salt—on an apple or radish, it adds a lip-smacking tang I find positively addictive.
Scoops 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

10.24.12 (I Did It) My Whey

I continue to be enamored of whey and hope my recipes for slow-cooked onions or crisp pickles may have piqued your interest. I suggest you get your hands on some by making fresh cheese or paneer (which might lead you down another path to this Indian dish or this one). I've learned that whey is also referred to as "milk serum," which sounds like something from the world of molecular gastronomy. But this yellowish, watery liquid is simply what's left when milk curdles, either from the use of rennet (sweet whey) or acid, like lemon or vinegar (acid whey). Whey was once a popular drink in inns and coffee houses (in the 1700s!) and has been used for centuries by European, Middle Eastern and Asian peoples to preserve food and in all manner of fermented tonics. It's an excellent source of minerals and digestive bacteria, and acts as a remedy for an upset stomach. Sipped on its own, whey is kind of an acquired taste, with a faint cheesiness that is not unpleasant. When combined with honey and frozen into sorbet, it's simply divine.
Lao Tzu —
To see things in the seed, that is genius.
Sunflower 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

10.22.12 Gone To Seed

A recent visit to our friends' farm up near the Vermont border yielded several delightful items from their bountiful garden, including a curvaceous butternut squash and a great big, beautiful sunflower head. Birds (or mice?) had already had their way with some of the purplish seeds but there were still plenty left. I lopped the yellow-fringed head off the tall, top-heavy plant, ferried it home and left it to dry in the porch for a few days. Then I turned it upside down, banged and clawed all the seeds out and looked into the proper roasting technique.
Yiddish proverb —
If you are bitter at heart, sugar in the mouth will not help you.
Bowl 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

10.19.12 Room for Dessert

Sugar brings me down. It causes inflammation which is basically the root of all evil. Too much of it (which is almost any at all) and I become tired, my face is more prone to break out and those little aches and pains creep in. It's insidious because you may not make the connection between that Snickers bar and the way you're feeling. It gets worse, though. Did you know that the consumption of refined sugar is now definitively linked to obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension and heart disease? (Learn more here.) Sweets are a limited commodity in our house and, when we do have them, I try to substitute honey, maple syrup or rapadura for the white processed stuff. And I focus on the incredible abundance of delicious fruits designed by nature to satisfy a sweet tooth. Are you turning away in disgust at the thought of a tangerine supplanting an Oreo in your heart? Stick with me. Because eating for health does not require a Dranconian regimen, merely the desire to become interested in tastes and treats that are both delicious and good for you. Cookies, muffins, cupcakes, tarts, donuts and pies are something of a national obsession, and they play no small role in the alarming increase of the aforementioned ailments. I'm actually kind of shocked by how many popular blogs and cookbooks are devoted to recipes for greasy, gooey treats. But I'd be lying if I said I never indulged. I just prefer to do it my way.
French proverb —
Life is like an onion and one peels it, crying.
Fork 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife

10.17.12 Whey To Go

Last week, G and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary over dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a fascinating restaurant previously written about here, here and here. We were joined by G's sister and her husband who were celebrating their twelfth. We'd all eaten at the restaurant before—multiple times, in fact—and while we were excited for the 8-course tasting menu, we also faced it with a bit of trepidation. We worried about stuffing ourselves sick, and were slightly aghast to be worried, given the amount of money we were poised to fork over. High class problems, right? No doubt about it. Despite having a beautifully prepared meal that delighted us to no small degree, we all came away questioning whether we ever wanted to eat that way again. It has begun to seem too rich, too precious, too prolonged. So I felt a sharp pang of recognition when I came across this recent article in the New York Times. (Don't miss the equally illuminating and entertaining reader comments!) It explores the current state of the tasting menu in elite restaurants across the country, and from it I can conclude that we are not the only ones disenchanted with the onslaught of dishes and the equally overwhelming prices. That said, I found much of what I ate at Stone Barns to be extremely inspiring, including these divine onions slow-cooked in whey.
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra —
The proof of the pudding is in the eating.