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Archive for February, 2009

Fat Tuesday Beignets

Mon Feb 23, 2009

Beignets

Beignets for Fat Tuesday

People who know me know this: I have very few secrets. Maybe I read too much Dr. Seuss as a kid, or maybe I was interested in psychology too early, but I offer up information about myself like a flower does pollen. So when I recently let it slip that I have an obsession with donuts, I think my fiancé Neal was a little surprised.

I wasn’t allowed to eat many sweets growing up, and there were rarely any in our house. My mom occasionally bought coffee cake or, my favorite, boxes of Entenmann’s Donuts. I loved the mildly spicy powdered cinnamon ones best. They were cakey and just a little sweet, and they would almost dissolve into a glass of milk. When the cinnamon ones were all gone, I would furtively sneak the plain cake ones, thinking no one would notice.

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Recipe Difficulty: Easy
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Jamie Oliver Game Giveaway

Tue Feb 17, 2009

What's Cooking? Jamie Oliver

I’ve never really been much of a gamer. My brother and I shared an Atari when we were kids—it was our first and last video game system. While everyone else moved on to Super Mario Brothers, my gaming development was arrested at Pong. Not that there were ever really any games I was interested in playing, frankly. I didn’t like blowing things up, or running away from objects that were trying to blow me up. I preferred playing outside, reading books and decorating cakes.

But video games aren’t just for kids anymore. And they aren’t just about blowing things up, either. I love the Wii because it simulates real, physical action—perfect for rainy days or late-night decompressing. I’ve actually improved my golf swing goofing around on it. What’s Cooking? Jamie Oliver is like the Tiger Woods golf game for foodies and junior foodies, designed for the hand-held Nintendo DS. Released last October, What’s Cooking? Jamie Oliver is a cooking training game complete with 100 of the Naked Chef’s recipes. Oliver guides you through timed cooking challenges as you chop, whisk and serve his creations. And you have beautiful pictures to guide you. It’s gourmet gaming! And when you’re ready, you can put the DS down and listen to the instructions while you prepare the meal for real. There’s also room to store 100 more of your own recipes, a virtual “test kitchen” to try them out, and a shopping list mode so you can tote your DS to the market instead of that crumpled piece of paper. What’s Cooking? Jamie Oliver is almost like getting to learn to cook with a famous chef, minus the sharp knives and the rolling boil of berating epithets that usually fly around a professional kitchen.

I’m giving away four copies of the new Nintendo DS game, What’s Cooking? Jamie Oliver courtesy of our friends at Cookstr. Remember Cookstr? The site is a virtual repository of recipes from chefs and cookbook authors that is fast-replacing a lot of the recipe sites I’ve bookmarked over the years (though, surprisingly, it’s got me to buy more cookbooks, not less). It’s like having Nancy Silverton, Suzanne Goin and Mario Batali’s brains at my fingertips. I’ve found dozens of great recipes on the site, including the one for the crystallized grapefruit zest I made with my grapefruit and black pepper sorbet.

So how do you win? It’s as easy as scrambling an egg. To enter, post a comment here about which famous chef you’d like to learn to cook from. Your comment must be posted by 11:59 PM on February 28, 2009. For an extra entry, Twitter about the giveaway, then comment again here with a link to your Tweet. Winners will be chosen at random. Sorry, US residents only.

Recipe Difficulty: Easy
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Wine of the Week: I Love Croatia

Sat Feb 14, 2009

Bibich RiservaI love Croatia. I’ve never been there, sure, but there are plenty of places that I love that I’ve never been: Argentina, Japan and Greece, to name a few. But before I wanted to climb the mountains of Patagonia or eat Argentine beef, before I learned about tiny village sake makers in Japan or imagined eating fresh feta as salty as the Aegean, I wanted to visit Croatia.

When I first learned about Croatia, it was the bullet-marred neighbor of Bosnia and Serbia, suffering amid the turmoil of the Yugoslav wars. Needless to say, it wasn’t somewhere I wanted to go. But, the next time I heard about Croatia was from some friends who had gone on Semester at Sea. They came back with “I heart Croatia” bumper stickers, and told of the cerulean waters of the Adriatic Sea, more beautiful than anything they had seen in the world. I decided I wanted to paddle up the Dalmatian Coast from Dubrovnik to Split, eat fish harpooned from the clear blue sea, and explore a civilization that has survived since the first millennium BC.

Now I’ve discovered yet another reason to want to visit Croatia—wine! The country is home to more than 300 diverse wine regions, producing whites (about 70%), reds and small amounts or rosé. The wines are similar in style to northeastern Italy, Austria, Hungry and Germany and include some of the same varietals, particularly Frankovka, also known as Blaufränkisch. But Croatia also makes some incredible, acid-driven wines from native varietals like Plavac Mali, which is an ancient relative of Zinfandel, and it seems that the best wines come from the Dalmatian Coast.

This Valentine’s Day, I’m paying tribute to my love of Croatia with a bottle of 2006 Bibich Riserva from the town of Skradin in North Dalmatia. A blend of three native varietals—Babich, Plavina and Lasin—the wine is full of fresh cherry and raspberry fruit, hints of clove and cardamom from aging in American oak, and an undercurrent of spicy black pepper. What I really love about this wine is its vibrant acidity and lighter body. It’s perfect for an evening when the meal might ordinarily call for a white wine, but you’re really in the mood for red (Dungeness crab, anyone?). I first tried the wine at Providence, for my birthday dinner, and it went remarkably well with the Black Bass and truffles I ate. It’s also equally tasty with a hearty roasted chicken or braised short ribs or stinky cheeses. Better yet, it’s got something for everyone—a little oak for the California wine lover and plenty of acidity for Old World wine geeks. And fortunately, since my enthusiasm for Croatian wine isn’t shared by many people, you can get this, and most Croatian wines, for less than $20.

Try it, and I think you’ll love Croatia, too.

Recipe Difficulty: Easy
Categories: Wine of the Week
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Feel the Love: Valentine’s Day

Tue Feb 3, 2009

Trying to find a wedding venue has been like trying to decide what to eat for dinner when you’re too tired to cook and too hungry to decide. When the only coherent thoughts you have are about what you don’t want. I don’t want a hotel wedding. I don’t want to get married on the beach. And I definitely don’t want to get married at a ranch in the middle of a suburban industrial park with cars whizzing by on the freeway in the background. Yes the Victorian house on the property is beautiful. No, it’s not interesting enough for me to forget about the Self-Storage and the tile showroom I passed driving up to it.

I’m not as bitter about wedding planning as I was in my first post about the subject. I’m actually starting to enjoy it, thanks to my wedding planner, Emily, who has taken over all the research responsibilities. Now I can click on the myriad links she sends me leisurely. I can rule places out with a glance, and I don’t have to worry about hurting my mother’s feelings. And I can sit in my pajamas all day and flip through the stacks of wedding magazines my friend Suzy so thoughtfully lent me. None of this makes finding a location for both the ceremony and the reception that suits our budget any easier, however; it’s just less stressful.

But with most of my free time devoted to the business of getting married, and Neal hunkered down at his desk, working into the wee hours every night trying to finish a side project he took on months ago, I haven’t thought much about romance.
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Recipe Difficulty: Easy
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