Posts from October 2014

Pop Praline Mummy or Frankenstein Toffee in your Mouth, Moonstruck Halloween Truffles

Before devoring a bunch of additive ladded chocolate candy and collapsing from a sugar high, stop for a minute and consider tastier alternatives.

Popping Praline Mummy ($45)

Praline mummy

or Frankeinstein Toffee ($30)

Frankenstein toffee

Halloween creations by Moonstruck Chocolate from Oregon.

(* Images from Moonstruck Chocolate site)

Straight or Spiced Up with Harissa, North African 'Leblebi' Soup from Twelve Recipes

While many cookbooks pile up the recipes on us, Cal Peternell, a chef of Chez Panisse in Twelve Recipes (William Morrow, October 2014) scales things back and keeps it humanly manageable.

Late October- early November cooler evenings call for warm soups.

Here's one you can serve straight or spiced up.


This North African soup combines a simple stew of onion, cilantro, and spiced chickpeas with
toasted bread chunks, turning humble to sublime, especially if you set a poached or hard-boiled egg on top. Liam and I like it for a satisfying after-school snack, even for 2 or 3 days running. I put a spoonful of spicy harissa and a sprinkle of capers on mine. Liam takes his straight. We try to say “We love leblebi!” three times fast, with full mouths and true hearts.

4 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
Crushed red pepper flakes
½ cup roughly chopped cilantro stems and leaves
2 garlic cloves, sliced or chopped
¾ cup chopped or grated tomatoes or ½ cup roasted tomato puree (page 184)
6 cups cooked chickpeas, with their liquid (2½ cups dried)
Small handful of Rustic Oily Croutons (page 25) per bowl
1 poached (page 33) or hard-boiled (page 30) egg per bowl
Ground cumin (optional)
Good-quality extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
Capers (optional)
Harissa sauce (opposite; optional)

12 recipes

Heat a soup pot over high heat. Add the oil, then the onion and salt. Stir, lower the heat, and cover the pot. Check and stir after a few minutes, letting the liquid on the lid drip back into the pot to keep things steamy. Lower the heat if there is any browning going on, and re-cover.

Cook like this until the onion is tender, about 15 minutes. Add the cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes, cilantro, and garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes to stop the garlic from browning and cook for a couple minutes more, stirring occasionally. Add the chickpeas and enough of their cooking liquid to cover by 2 inches, raise the heat, and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Put 2 ladles of soup in a blender or food mill and puree (careful—it’s hot). Return to the soup pot and stir in to thicken the leblebi slightly.

Taste for seasonings and add water or any reserved cooking liquid if it’s too thick.

To serve, put some croutons in each soup bowl. Ladle in the leblebi and top with a poached egg or a halved hard-boiled egg. Sprinkle with a little ground cumin and oil and capers if you like, and pass a bowl of harissa sauce to spoon over at the table.

Tubes of prepared harissa, like some kind of practical joke toothpaste, can be found at Middle
Eastern markets. At Asian markets, I buy sambal oelek—the chili paste that comes in a little jar with a green top and a gold label with a red rooster on it—and make a quick harissa by stirring 3 tablespoons of it with 1 or more pounded garlic cloves and 6 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil.

For a more nuanced harissa sauce, mix 2 tablespoons paprika or any other mild chili powder with enough hot water to make a thick paste, about 3 tablespoons. Stir in 2 tablespoons pounded garlic and 3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil. I often want a splash of red wine vinegar in there and sometimes will add some ground cumin and cayenne if it needs heating up. A tablespoon or two of currants or raisins, plumped for 10 minutes in hot water, adds a sweet counterpoint.

(* Recipe excerpted from  Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell -William Morrow, October 2014) 

Open your Eyes to Myopia at MCA in Denver, October 30, Courtesy of Mark Mothersbaugh

Open your Eyes to Myopia at MCA in Denver, opening on October 30, courtesy of Mark Mothersbaugh

Exhibit covers many facets of Mark's creative output outside music.

MCA Mothersbaugh Myopia

Myopia keeps its eyes opened in Denver until April 12, 2015.

Myopia book

There is also a companion book Myopia (Princeton Architectural Press, October 21) by Adam Lerner (cover above).

Pasta Every Which Shape and Candied Fruit Half Moon Pasta Recipe for World Pasta Day

There's life beyond spaghetti as previously posted Pasta for your Eyes, Corals, Morels to Rooster Combs, Colorful Shapes (August 2013)

Colorful pasta


Sweet pasta treat? Mezzelune Dolci, Candied Fruit Filled Half Moon Pasta recipe from Pasta Italiana (Kyle Books USA, January 2012), by Gino D' Acampo

My way to celebrate #WorldPastaDay

Penicillin to Bass-Toned New Spain, Amontillado and Mezcal in, Scotch Out, from Sherry

In Sherry A Modern Guide to the Wine World's Best-Kept Secret, with Cocktails and Recipes (Ten Speed Press, October 14-2014), Talia Baiocchi declares her love for the real sherry not the cheap knock offs.

Travel to Spain with her and (re) discover an  authentic drink rooted in tradition.

Here's a taste you can toast with this cocktail excerpted from 'Sherry'.

New  Spain

New York City bartender Sam Ross’s Penicillin—a mix of scotch, lemon, honey, and ginger—became one of the few drinks to quickly establish itself within the tiny category of “modern classics.” It’s a drink I return to often and one I am always pleased to meet on a cocktail list. The Penicillin’s foolproof combination of smoky, spicy, sweet, and sour has sparked a whole category of riffs, including this one. I used the same flavor blueprint and subbed in mezcal, amontillado, lime, and agave to give it a muggier, bass-toned Latino updo. What the drink illustrates well is the strong relationship between sherry and spirits like mezcal or scotch, which tend to have an iodine and salt
component that is echoed in both fino and amontillado.

1 (.-inch-thick) slice fresh ginger, peeled
. ounce agave nectar
. ounce lime juice
2 ounces amontillado
1 ounce Del Maguey Vida mezcal
Garnish: nutmeg, lime wheel

New spain

Add the ginger to a mixing glass with the agave and lime juice and muddle.

Add the sherry and mezcal, and fill with ice. Shake, and finely strain over a large cube of ice into a rocks glass.

Grate nutmeg over the top and garnish with the lime wheel.

(* Reprinted with permission from Sherry, by Talia Baiocchi, copyright 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House LLC. Photography copyright © 2014 by Ed Anderson)

Boat with Whale, Walrus and Renee Erickson drops Anchor at Maiden Lane in New York, October 20

Boat with whale, walrus and Renee Erickson drops anchor at Maiden Lane restaurant in New York on October 21, 2014.

Or to make it less 'Noah's Ark', celebrate publication of A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus, Menus and Stories (Sasquatch Books, September 2014) by joining Seattle chef Renee Erickson for a cookbook-dinner at Maiden Lane...

A boat a whale and a walrus menu

Menu above, $65 for cocktail party dinner (drinks not included), $40 for book

Shoeboxes beat Container Store, Decluttering Japanese Way by Marie Kondo

Decluttering, simplifying, streamlining, bringing some Zen to your home, add any other adjective or tag word to the list and the cottage industry from books to magazines to stores to coaches that has been created to feed our search for order in our crowded lives.

It seems at times that we are buying more stuff from books to shelves to containers in various sizes, styles, and shape to organize our stuff.

A small tome titled The life-changing magic of tidying up, the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing (Ten Speed Press, October 14) by Marie Kondo beats a different drum.

When we often considered cleaning house a chore she calls tidying as 'a dialogue with one's self'.

To hoarders among us she suggests ' to truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose'.

Clothing is a big item on the list.

I personally like to have my clothes ready at night for next day. It makes waking up to the day smoother.

Marie Kondo feels that 'to go through life without knowing how to fold is a huge loss'.

With our modern homes heating and air conditioning, she considers putting 'out of season' clothing away a waste of time. She makes an exception for summer items like bathing suits and sun hats and winter items like mittens, ear muffs and heavy coats.

Tidying up

In her view, 'plastic cases with lids are the hardest type of storage units to use effectively' as once put away, we tend to pile other items on top of them.

She advises buying instead a good set of drawers and to let clothes get some air and light on occasion and to open a 'drawer and run your hands over the content' to 'let them know you care and look forward to wear them again when they are next in season', a spiritual connection of sorts to one's clothing.

I will let you see for yourself  what she has to say about books, a growing presence in my house, like vine on a stone wall.

She insists that there is 'no need for commercial storage items' and cites shoeboxes as a favorite item to organize things. She mentions using them to store socks in drawers.

She notes that 'the lid of a shoebox is shallow and can be used as a tray.' For example, 'in the cupboard to hold your cooking oils and spices, keeping the floor of the cupboard clean. Unlike many shelf liners, these lids don't slip and are much easier to replace.'

Hope these bite size excerpts piqued your curiosity.

Shoeboxes beat Container Store, Decluttering for Tokyo Thursdays # 297

Beyond Wheat Baking, Start Journey with Coconut Marjolaine from 'Flavor Flours'

With Flavor Flours (Artisan Books, October 2014), Alice Medrich takes us on journey through wide world of beyond wheat baking.

Exhibit 1 uses rice flour and a large helping of coconut.

Coconut Marjolaine

Serves 10 to 12

Coconut lovers will appreciate this riff on the French classic layer cake made with coconut and rice flour instead of the traditional almonds, hazelnuts, and wheat flour. The filling is a light whipped chocolate ganache with bittersweet ganache frosting. A great professional trick for cutting and handling thin, fragile cake layers is to leave them attached to their parchment liners until the very last minute. Try it; it works.

For the coconut meringue layers

2 ¼ cups (190 grams) unsweetened dried shredded coconut
3 tablespoons (30 grams) white rice flour or scant ⅓ cup (30 grams) Thai white rice flour
Generous ⅛ teaspoon salt
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
9 large egg whites, at room temperature
¾ teaspoon cream of tartar

For the filling and frosting

1 ½ cups plus ⅔ cup heavy cream
12 ounces (340 grams) 55% to 60% chocolate, finely chopped
Pinch of salt (optional)
1 tablespoon dark rum


Stand mixer with whisk attachment
16-by-12-by-1-inch half sheet pan or 11-by-17-inch jelly roll pan, lined with parchment
Handheld mixer


1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.

2. To make the meringue layers, in a medium bowl, mix the coconut, rice flour, salt, and ½ cup (100 grams) of the sugar. Set aside.

3. Combine the egg whites with the cream of tartar in the bowl of the stand mixer. Beat with the whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. On high speed, gradually beat in the remaining ½ cup sugar until the egg whites are stiff but not dry. Pour the coconut mixture over the meringue and fold with a rubber spatula just until incorporated. Spread the batter evenly in the lined pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan from back to front after about 15 minutes, until the meringue is golden brown and springy to the touch. Set the pan on a rack to cool. (The cake may be prepared up to this point 2 days ahead; cover tightly and store at room temperature.)

4. To make the ganache filling and frosting, bring 1½ cups of the cream to a simmer. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the chocolate until it is completely melted and smooth. Transfer 1⅓ cups of the ganache to another bowl and stir the remaining ⅔ cup cold cream into it to make a lighter ganache. Chill the light ganache for at least 2 hours or until needed. Taste and consider adding a pinch of salt to the dark ganache; leave it at room temperature to cool and thicken.

5. To assemble the cake, cut around the edges of the pan to detach the meringue. Grasp the edges of the parchment liner and pull or slide the meringue onto the counter or a large cutting board. Using a sharp knife or scissors, cut the meringue (and parchment) in halfcrosswise, then in thirds lengthwise to make 6 layers, each about 8 by 3¾ inches.

6. Flip one layer over and peel off the parchment. Set the layer right side up on a sheet of foil. Remove the chilled light ganache from the refrigerator and add the rum. Beat it briefly with the handheld mixer until it is light colored and stiff enough to hold a good shape for spreading. Spread one-fifth of the ganache (about ½ cup) evenly over the layer. Place a second layer, meringue side down, on top of the ganache and press it level. Peel off the parchment and continue alternating meringue layers and ganache (remembering to peel off the parchment each time before spreading the ganache), ending with a meringue layer. Wrap and refrigerate the cake until firm, at least 1 hour.

7. To finish the cake, remove it from the refrigerator. Peel the parchment off the top layer. Use a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to trim the sides of the cake evenly. Set the cake on a baking sheet (or lazy Susan or turntable if you have one). Spread the top and sides of the cake with a very thin coat of dark ganache just to create a smooth surface. If the ganache is too stiff, warm it gently by stirring with a spatula that has been dipped in hot water and wiped dry. Frost the top and sides of the cake with smooth or swirly strokes.

8. Use a spatula to transfer it to a serving dish or a covered container. The cake keeps, covered in the refrigerator, for at least 3 days. Remove the cake from the refrigerator 30 to 60 minutes before serving to soften the layers and open up the flavors.

Note: For a slightly more bittersweet filling and frosting, use 61% to 64% chocolate and make the following changes to the recipe: Increase the first amount of cream to 1¾ cups, and reduce the second amount to ½ cup. Reduce the amount of chocolate to 10 ounces. Bring the 1¾ cups of cream to a simmer and pour it over the chocolate. Mix well and transfer ¾ cup of the mixture to another bowl and combine it with the remaining ½ cup of cream. Continue as directed.

(Excerpted from Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Leigh Beisch.)

Green Sky in Singapore, Comcrop 'Urban Farming' by the Living Project

Compared to other urban farming projects, Comcrop (born in 2013) is still a baby.

Yet it proves that even in densely populated cities, Singapore ranked 3rd in most crowded places after Macau and Monaco and before Hong Kong (according to Wikipedia piece), there is room to grow.


Green sky in Singapore for Green Day # 271

(* Comcrop image from Comcrop Facebook page)