Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Buckwheat Bread and Home Made Matzos

Recently made buckwheat bread using Jim Lahey's foolproof bread recipe (see post of November 19, 2009), but with 3/4 white, 1/8 whole wheat and 1/8 buckwheat flours. Ugly, bluish color but delicious. I love the nutty taste of buckwheat and this had it.

Buckwheat Bread

Then I read Mark Bittman's recipe in The New York Times for home made olive oil matzo and decided to try it. A reasonably tasty but ugly flatbread - not puffy like the pictures. I decided to use the same recipe, but to prepare the bread on a grill pan instead of baking it. After a few experiments, I got a delicious and nice-looking result, using a medium grill pan and brushing the bread with olive oil and a little sprinkling of fleur de sel.

Home Made Olive Oil Matzo

Bobby Jay

Grand Jury Duty - Silver Lining

Roast Meat and Dried Seafood in Chinatown

No one really wants to do grand jury duty, but there is no escape if you're called. Postponements, yes, but ultimately you've got to serve.
I just completed two weeks of full-day service, with at least an hour for lunch. Here's the silver lining: 60 Centre Street, where I was serving, is just five minutes from Chinatown. So every day was an opportunity to eat Chinese or Vietnamese food, especially noodles in my case, and to see the food sights in this interesting part of town.

Day 1: Pho Viet Huong - daily special with pork, spring roll, rice noodles and cabbage soup, good but not great
Day 2: Nha Trang - excellent Pho with shrimp
Day 3: Great NY Noodle Company - excellent soy sauce fried noodles with pork

Day 4: Joe's Shanghai - famous (and delicious) soup dumplings

Day 5:
Mandarin Court - mediocre dim sum
Day 6:
New Bo Ky - excellent seafood soup noodles, followed by a sesame ball from Fay Da Bakery
Day 7: Bouley Upstairs - not Chinese but very nice, casual food with Bouley stamp
Day 8:
Odeon - also not Chinese but nice; this was one of the Tribeca pioneers and is still good
Day 9: New Yeah - Good Shanghainese braised noodles with vegetables and "yellow" fish with scallions
Day 10:
Jing Fong for wonderful dim sum in an enormous 2nd floor restaurant

So don't despair when your civic duty calls.
Grab your Zagat and seek out culinary adventures!

Bobby Jay

Friday, March 26, 2010

Marcella Hazan

I recently read Marcella Hazan's autobiography, Amarcord. I confess that I didn't love it. I'm not sure why not, but somehow the narrative energy was less than I have found in a number of other similar biographies, notably Jacques Pépin's The Apprentice and Julia's My Years in Paris. That being said, however, reading this book reminded me of the enormous debt we all have to Marcella for revamping the way we think of Italian food.

The emphasis on regionalism, simplicity and quality of ingredients now seems obvious, but it was not always so. Her user-friendly and near-foolproof books, particularly
The Classic Italian Cookbook and More Classics of Italian Cooking, contributed significantly to Americans' sophistication in matters of Italian food. Those volumes, together with her activities outside of the book world (chronicled in Amarcord) to the demand for and now availability of a myriad of Italian ingredients, like extra virgin olive oils, balsamic vinegars, dried and fresh porcini, sun-dried tomatoes, that enable us to achieve very authentic results. \

Whenever people discuss the most important cookbooks on their shelves - the ones they could not live without - Marcella's initial works are mentioned. When my wife and I bought an apartment in Paris, I immediately bought Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, which incorporates (and slightly expands) her first two volumes, to provide a trove of useful recipes that are in some ways easier to achieve in France than in NY due to the availability of ingredients. Marcella's later books, Marcella Cucina and Marcella's Italian Kitchen, are also wonderful and complete her amazing culinary legacy.

Later writers, starting with a more educated public, have continued the tradition started by Marcella, exposing Americans to Italian specialties that are within the competence of amateur cooks and yet give us access to unfamiliar regions of Italy where, through food at least, an older way of life survives. My favorite of these is Lidia Bastianich (see my post "Tutti a Tavola with Lidia Bastianich"), but mention must be made of Mario Batali and of Marcella's son Giuliano Hazan.

So, thank you Marcella, for inviting us into your Italian kitchen.

Bobby Jay

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Welcome to bobbyjayonfood!

I know I have had a lot of first-time visitors of late, some of whom are not habitués of the blogosphere. I bid you all welcome.

Blogs are by definition chronological, so it can be a lot of work to review a blog quickly to see what it's like and to find posts of interest. I encourage you, therefore, to navigate by using the "Topics" tags at the right of the blog. For example, if you are planning a trip to Paris, click on "Paris" to review all [37] posts relating to that marvelous city; if you are interested only in Paris restaurants, you could also click on "Restaurants" for the [27] posts on that topic. If you are interested in posts discussing cookbooks, click on "Cookbooks." Well, you get the idea.

And please make a comment if the spirit moves you: the more comments, the more the blog enables members of a small foodie community to share their interests and experiences. Simply click on the word "comments" at the end of a post and follow the simple directions. You do not need a gmail (or any other) account. Just (i) write the comment in the box provided, (ii) check "Name/URL" under "Choose an identity" and put in your name (or pen name) in the space provided, and (iii) type the code words shown in the box. This last step is to prevent spam comments from automatic web searcher/commenters, who never lose an opportunity to invade your online life.

Again, welcome to my blog. I hope you enjoy it!

Bobby Jay

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I'm Improving

I'm cooking more these days and it shows: I'm improving (and improvising).

Two nights ago, I botched a red lentil and Swiss chard soup from Ottolenghi (see post "Ottolenghi - An Exciting Cookbook" of February 6, 2010). I couldn't figure out how this delicious-sounding recipe could be so awful until I realized that I had used 6 cups, rather than 6 pints, of water. No wonder the soup wasn't soup and also didn't taste right. Rather than tossing the icky mess, I put it in the fridge and decided to either make lentil cakes or to reconstitute it as soup. Today, I made it into soup, adding lots of water and chicken broth, and serving it with croutons and prosciutto chips (an idea I stole from Clos des Gourmets in Paris, where I had a green lentil soup accompanied by bellota chips, a riff on the classic lentil soup with ham).

It turned out to be delicious, reaffirming my faith in Ottolenghi, but also giving me a jolt of satisfaction for diagnosing and resolving a problem and making something good out of it.

Bobby Jay

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Adventures with Clotilde

I recently discovered Clotilde Dusoulier, a 30-year old Frenchwoman who is a food blogger, cookbook author and travel writer, all written in perfect, humorous English.

Chocolate & Zucchini is well-known to people who follow food. It is clever, useful and well-written. One of my favorite features is her series (with excellent explanations and examples) of "edible" French idioms, such as "être tout sucre tout miel," "mettre la main dans la pâte," and "pédaler dans la semoule," to name just a few.
Clotilde's cookbook (Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen) is a charming compendium of classic French dishes, with good background information, lively (if somewhat cutesy) anecdotes and variations to help Americans deal with the absence of certain classic French ingredients. I have made several of her very clearly expressed recipes with success. An example:

There are many things for which I am grateful to my mother. The gift of life ranks quite high -- a precious thing, that -- but her basic tart crust recipe is a close second. The recipe does not involve the usual daunting steps of rolling out a stubborn dough and transferring it awkwardly into the pan; instead, my mother's method has you combining all the ingredients into a sandy mixture that ou simply dump in the pan and pack with your fingers to form a crust, like you would for a cheesecake.

My only complaint is her use of volumetric, rather than weight, measures, particularly in the recipes for baked desserts, but that is unfortunately still the norm in the US.

Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris is a food guide to Paris, the best since Patricia Wells' excellent A Food Lover's Guide to Paris, which was last updated in 2004. Her restaurant recommendations are very thoughtful and personal; while she includes many of the well-known palaces and bistros, she also includes less-known places that you might not find on your own. The book is also a useful guide to food and food-related markets and stores, and contains a lot of interesting Paris lore. The book contains 12 interesting recipes, this time with metric weight equivalents.

I think we'll be hearing a lot more from Clotilde.

Bobby Jay

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Paris - Salon d'Agriculture Revisited

Literally. For I just went to the amazing Salon d'Agriculture for the second time (see my post of March 2, 2009 entitled "Paris - Salon d'Agriculture" for my reactions to last year's).

As an experienced Salon-goer, I knew that the first thing to do was to head to Pavilion Number 7, French regional food (including "outre-mer," i.e. Martinique, Guadeloupe, Tahiti, New Caledonia, among others). An amazing selection of wonderful food prepared in the traditional way. There seemed to be more Corsican products - charcuterie and cheese - this year than last, but all the regions are well-represented by their specialties.

Real Specialists

I started with a foie gras sandwich and then just grazed on free samples of sausages, Corsican cured filet mignon (amazing!) and pork, cheeses from all over, Armagnac, caramel du lait (dulce de leche for us Norteamericanos), nonnettes (a kind of spice bread stuffed with confited fruits) from Brittany, Armagnac, etc. Showing great restraint, I only bought figatelli, a garlicky Corsican sausage made with pork and pork liver, Bas-Armagnac and lavender honey.

For pictures and more, click more below.

Comfortably sated, I went to Pavilion 1 to admire French livestock. The pride of French husbandry was represented, with prize winning cattle, pigs, sheep and goats of all varieties. It is truly inspiring to see these magnificent, content animals.

The Salon d'Agriculture is a must if you happen to be in Paris at the end of February or early March.

Bobby Jay