Saturday, January 30, 2010

My Bladder's Carbon Footprint

I know. This has nothing to do with food. In fact, I bet it’s a real turnoff if you were expecting to read about a Scharffen Berger Chocolate mascarpone cream cake with Amaretto-infused ladyfingers or something. But I can’t sit here in good conscience, coddling your foodie sensibilities with all this mounting pressure on my bladder. As that French philosopher of urology, René Descartes, said, “I drink, therefore I pee.” Boy, was he right. I drink so much water, I can’t see the rainforest for the t.p.

So what’s a fully hydrated girl to do? Try to hold it? Go all crazy-astronaut lady? (We know what diapers do to landfills.) Refuse to spare a square? Boycott the Kleenex Cottonelle brand that cuts down virgin forests and opt for the rougher, recycled kind instead? And what about all that flushing? If planet Earth runs out of water, we’ll be in deep doo-doo. Geez. Only I could feel guilty about piddling.

Oddly enough, after I began obsessing over this blight on the forests and water supply, I read that an environmental group in Brazil is campaigning for everyone to pee in the shower once a day so each household can save over a thousand gallons of water a year. They even produced some whimsical animated tv spots of amorphous figures urethrally gesticulating behind a shower curtain. I admire their fluid, forward thinking, but I worry that Brazil will become known as the uri-nation.

As I ride this tsunami of higher bladderal consciousness, I think I may have come up with the perfect solution—cap and trade. Since I commute to the bathroom more than you do, and you drive farther to work than me, I’ll swap you some of my Chevron points for some of your Charmin points. Voila. Instant guilt-be-gone. Now if there were only some Fortune 500 rain clouds I could barter for. But enough about my bladder. My stomach wants to know what’s for lunch.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Travel Bite: Borough Market, London

I snapped these pics at Borough Market, London's oldest food emporium, which was originally established on the south bank of the Thames when the Romans built the first London Bridge. It attracted traders who were selling grain, fish, vegetables and livestock. Today it's the country's most important retail market for fine foods and has been at its current location for 250 years beneath the railway viaducts off Burough High Street.

This hare-raising spectacle gave me a sinking feeling, having long eschewed eating anything that high on the cute animal meter. I know it’s about as shallow as only dating guys that look like George Clooney, but boycotting bunnies is actually doable.

My heart cried foul for these hanging victims at the gourmandize gallows, though it did strike me as so very British. The only thing missing was Jonathan Rhys Meyers decked out in Henry VIII regalia with pheasant schmaltz and feathers on his face.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Veggie Stuffed Eggplant

Is there such a thing as taxidermy for vegetables?
Or did I just coin a new genre? Regardless, these stuffed eggplants are worthy of center stage. True, you can’t mount them on the wall, but who needs antlers when you’ve got zesty tomatoes, onions, garlic and all those fresh herbs.

I adapted this recipe from a Turkish cooking class I took a few months ago when I was in Istanbul. It was one of five sublime dishes we made (I featured another recipe in an earlier post). This versatile vegetarian course is equally good served warm as an entrée or at room temperature for a meze or appetizer. The recipe calls for braising the eggplants in a deep skillet (which I did), but I don’t see why you couldn’t bake them. The filling ingredients are so simple, you may wonder just how exciting it could possibly be. Well don't you worry. Those wallflowers will perk right up the minute they cozy up to Mr. Aubergine. Trust me. This savory, full-bodied dish will make your cooking expedition worthy of any trophy.*

*Vegetable hunting license not required


2 medium-sized eggplants or 4 small ones

1-2 onions, very finely sliced

2 tomatoes, skinned and chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely diced

Bunch of fresh parsley, chopped

Bunch of fresh dill, chopped

Bunch of fresh mint, chopped

1-2 TBSP tomato paste

½ TBSP salt

Olive oil


Pinch of sugar

Juice of ½ lemon

Freshly ground pepper

In a bowl, sprinkle the onions with a royal amount of salt and knead/massage them forcefully with your hands until they start to weep and soften. This facilitates the cooking process and ensures all onion pieces separate. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, ground pepper, sugar and lemon juice. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

Make sure to find eggplants that fit on a plate. Place a little knife on the spot where the stem starts above the leaves and cut all around, not cutting all the way through to the hard part inside. Twist, don’t pull, the stem off so that only the hard core is left. Tear off the leaves and trim the remainders away to smoothen the top (from up to down is better). Halve the eggplants lengthways, careful to keep a piece of stem on each side. Cut off a tiny piece of the outside to make the eggplant sit without wobbling. With the knife, hollow out the inside, making sure not to cut all the way to the end of the eggplant.

Pile the mixture high on top of each eggplant and press it in, making sure it’s full, tight and heaped up and that all of the flesh is covered. Put a few tablespoons of water in a wide skillet or Dutch over. Put eggplants in, side by side, and pour some olive oil over them. Cover the pan, and cook gently for about 1 hour. Leave to cool in the pan, preferably covered and overnight. Put each eggplant on a plate and decorate with herb sprigs.

Makes 4 servings

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Monsanto: The Cereal Rapist

I can’t look corn flakes in the face anymore without wondering: Are you one of Monsanto’s genetically modified demon seeds? Were you part of a freaky science project designed solely to line the genetically modified cotton pockets of its shareholders? What right does a greedy corporation have to alter the world's food supply? I'm a shareholder of the planet! What about my bottom line?

Monsanto is not just a big-agribusiness bully, it's a cereal rapist, furtively planting its seed wherever it pleases, while its victims—family farmers and the public—lie helpless. Since corn is a wind-pollinated plant, it can spread from one farm to another without the farmers even knowing about it, so contamination between GM and non-GM crops is unavoidable. Enter Monsanto's nefariously crack legal team claiming that the farmers, in their provocative overalls, were just asking for it.

Uh oh. There I go, getting all drama-queen on you. But there’s mounting proof that GM foods are harmful to animals and humans. About 75 percent of all processed foods in this country contain some GM ingredients, so chances are you're being violated without even knowing it. GM corn fed to mice and pigs have shown organ and blood abnormalities, as well as immune dysfunction. Scientists have discovered reproductive problems in pigs and cows. And there have been mysterious deaths in chickens. According to Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception, the most common side effects from GM crops are allergenic, toxic, carcinogenic and anti-nutritional.

How do we know what's GM when there's no GM labeling on our food? The most prevalent GM crops are corn, soy, cottonseed and canola. By definition, an organic crop cannot be genetically modified, so in addition to the big four, it’s important to buy organic zucchini, crookneck squash, Hawaiian papaya and sugar derived from sugar beets, since those are mostly GM crops.

So let's all strap on our chastity belts and join the growing non-GM movement by fighting to have all GM foods labeled and choosing only non-GM foods when possible. The Institute for Responsible Technology has compiled an excellent Non-GMO Shopping Guide that you can download for free.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ode to a Pitt

For you, the women really flip

Your flesh so green atop a chip

Come star in my guac, you hottie

Angelina won’t know if we’re naughty

Friday, January 15, 2010

Seductive Leek and Mushroom Tart

You might as well serve this alluring tart in the boudoir.
My savory seductress here elicited actual moans from my dinner guests. I kid you not. They were moaning. Who knew sautéed leeks and shitakes, rich gruyere, fresh marjoram and a kiss of marsala, all nestled in a buttery crust would make for such exciting foreplay. So what if there was no cuddling afterwards. I’ll take what I can get.

Whether you're a virgin or you like it rough, this crust is easily doable. It's meant to be rustic, so you can't really screw it up. If you do misbehave, you can quickly make amends with a little massaging. For years I used the dreaded ‘C’ word (Crisco), but then I wised up to the evils of hydrogenated oil and switched to butter. I also cut the flour and fat together by hand with two knives but recently switched to the food processor. It's surprisingly easy this way. Last time I used another of Martha Stewart's Pâte Brisée crust recipes that called for some cornmeal, so I have included that option.

I looked at a lot of different recipes before striking out on my own with the filling, and let me tell you, this tart is no prude. She's open to anything. I've used both cremini and shitake shrooms, but this time I was monogamous with shitakes. I also mixed cheeses like swiss and asiago which have a nice bite, but for this one, I used all gruyere. Feel free to pick thyme over marjoram, a combination of both, or the herbs of your choice. Don't be afraid to get down-and-root-vegetable dirty. Your orgy dinner party will be better than adult cable.


Both the Pâte Brisée recipe and the Cornmeal Pâte Brisée recipe are from Martha Stewart. While my photos show the all-flour one, I think I prefer the cornmeal version. Try them both and decide for yourself.

Pâte Brisée

Pâte brisee is the French version of classic pie or tart pastry. Pressing the dough into a disc rather than shaping it into a ball allows it to chill faster. This will also make the dough easier to roll out, and if you freeze it, it will thaw more quickly.

Makes 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust 9- to 10-inch pies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (for Cornmeal Pâte Brisée, replace ½ cup flour with ½ cup cornmeal)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.

With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.


1 TBSP butter

1 TBSP olive oil

2 leeks

½ an onion

8 - 10 good-size shitake or crimini mushrooms (or a combination of both)

¾ cup gruyere cheese

Handful of fresh marjoram or thyme (or a combination of both; can use dried if you don’t have fresh, but use less than if using fresh)

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

2 - 3 TBSP marsala wine (or more if you need it)

Preheat oven to 425º.

Sauté leeks and onions in butter and olive oil until slightly golden. Add shrooms, herbs, salt and pepper (if you can’t fit the shrooms in the pan, sauté in a separate batch, and be sure to add the wine). When leeks, onions and shrooms are soft and caramelized, deglaze pan with marsala wine.

Roll out the dough on a piece of parchment paper. Place parchment paper and dough on a baking sheet. Put all of the cheese on the dough except a small handful. Add the rest of ingredients. Fold over dough in rustic tart fashion, and then put the remaining cheese on top. You can add an egg wash for color if you like.

Bake at 425º for 10 minutes, then reduce oven to 350º for 20-30 min or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. Let cool at least 10 minutes.

Makes 4 main course servings.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fork is the new F**k

F-bombs fly from my mouth like nukes from Iran. There seems to be a continuous barrage of them lately. "Do you hear yourself?" says my delicate-flower side to my truck-drivin’ side. “Aren’t you kind of chronologically advanced to be using the F-word all the time? Shouldn’t someone with your vocabulary and savoir faire show a little more, uh, class?” But before my inner trucker can back up, a huge idea hits me head on. I'll start using the word “fork” instead.

“That’s forkin’ brilliant!” I exclaim to myself. Not only will I clean up my mouth, I'll brand myself! What better way to tell the world you’re a foodie (and to please read my blog) than to use the word “fork” 300 times a day! All it will require is a little cerebral retraining. Granted, my retention has nosedived faster than a 98-year-old off his Aricept, but I should be able to master one new cognitive function, right? Won’t it merely entail a Find and Replace?

I tried to kick the habit several years ago after the flower successfully convinced the trucker it was time for an image overhaul. But when I accidentally let one slip in my workplace, I heard a 20-something say, “Adair says f**k? Cool!” That’s when the trucker plowed full-speed-ahead and never looked back. Hey, it was a career move.

But now I'm in flower mode again, and it's time to eschew the crass for some class. I considered not posting this, in the likelihood it will diminish my brand. But then I thought, “Fork it!”

Friday, January 8, 2010

Here's to Life

I’ve been in a pensive mood for the past few weeks since my mother died. So my friend Jim gave me a copy of Barbra Streisand’s latest disc, Love is the Answer to cheer me up. Her voice really is like but-tah, and I’ve been relishing it like a piece of the most decadent chocolate cake. There’s an intimacy about her recording, like she’s whispering something personal to you and you alone. Not only can you hear her every breath, you can hear what she had for lunch.

I detected a piece of brisket when her voice gradually got beefier during a bridge. Granted, a lean cut. Babs isn’t really a saturated fat kinda gal. Then there was the egg salad with dill when her voice got a little playful. It was the dill that really made that song. I heard smoked whitefish on bagel when the strings swelled, reaching a gorgeous, smoky crescendo. You can take the girl out of Brooklyn, but you can’t take the whitefish out of the girl. And when she showed amazing vocal restraint, I heard one perfect bite of creamy New York cheesecake. You knew she could have gone whole hog, but unlike me, Babs is not a binger.

Hell, I can hear a better meal in her voice than we had for my mom’s funeral. Six days of turkey, roast beef and tuna on flaccid bread from a place called Jason’s Deli. My sister’s gracious coterie of catering friends apparently got their signals crossed and ordered three of the same ginormous sandwich platters—enough to feed a Dallas shtetl. My mom taught us to never waste food, so the onus was on us. Six straight days of leftover cold cuts. So much for comfort food.

Yet like the most satisfying comfort food, a powerful song not only has the ability to soothe and coddle you, it can even be life-affirming, as the opener on Barbra’s disc proves:

Here’s To Life

I had my share

I drank my fill

And even though I’m satisfied

I’m hungry still

To see what’s down another road

Beyond the hill

And do it all again

So here’s to life

And all the joy it brings

Yes here’s to life

And dreamers and their dreams

May all your storms be weathered

And all that’s good get better

Here’s to life

Here’s to love

Here’s to you

And here’s to mom, Barbra and but-tah. L’chaim.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Travel Bite: Boulangerie, Rue Cler, Paris

Rue Cler is a quaint pedestrian street in Paris' upscale 7th Arrondissemont close to where I was staying near the Ecole Militaire and Eiffel Tower. With its boulangerie, fromagerie, charcuterie, poissonnerie and chocolat confiserie, there was no shortage of charming places ending in rie. This boulangerie had an outdoor setup, replete with French cleavage. Who was the bigger tart?

It is said that a French baker cannot be good at both bread and pastry and must therefore choose between the two.

And yet I would trust a single Frenchman to knead my dough and fill my tart any day (or night). Then again, two Frenchmen might be better.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Orange-Hazelnut Biscotti

Thank goodness our country allows fruits and nuts to marry.
Even Rush Limbaugh would approve of this fabulous union of bright, zingy orange and the delicate flavor of hazelnuts.

Call it a filbert, and it sounds like a comic strip character. Call it a hazelnut, and it sounds positively regal, which is exactly what this elegant, citrus-flavored biscotti imparts—regality. I got the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated (membership required), but I made a few notes in italics below. Baking Illustrated has this same recipe with almonds instead of the hazels. And as noted in the original Cook's Illustrated directions below, a combination of both nuts would also be a winner.

I served this biscotti with chocolate sorbet, and it was a match made in heaven. However, next time, I think I’ll try to introduce chocolate into the biscotti itself. But that's another day, another recipe, and another legal battle for the state of California.


The addition of a small amount of butter produces a richer, more cookie-like texture. Although they will keep at least two weeks in an airtight container, these biscotti are especially good when eaten the same day they are baked. A combination of almonds and hazelnuts works very well, too.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon table salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon almond extract

¾ cup whole hazelnuts with skins; toasted, cooled, and chopped course (After roasting the nuts, the skins were so hard, they tasted kind of burnt, so I took them off)

1 large orange zested and minced to yield 2 tablespoons zest (It took 2 oranges for me to get 2 TBSPs)

1. Sift first three ingredients together in a small bowl.

2. Beat butter and sugar together in bowl of electric mixer until light and smooth; add eggs one at a time, then extracts. Stir in hazelnuts and zest. Sift dry ingredients over egg mixture, then fold in until dough is just combined.

3. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Halve dough and turn each portion onto an oiled cookie sheet covered with parchment. Using floured hands, quickly stretch each portion of dough into a rough 13-by-2-inch log, placing them about 3 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Pat each dough shape to smooth it. Bake, turning pan once, until loaves are golden and just beginning to crack on top, about 35 minutes.

4. Cool the loaves for 10 minutes (I would wait till completely cool so they won't break when you cut them); lower oven temperature to 325 degrees. cut each loaf diagonally into 3/8-inch slices with a serrated knife. Lay the slices about 1/2-inch apart on the cookie sheet, cut, side up and return them to the oven. Bake, turning over each cookie halfway through baking, until crisp and golden brown on both sides, about 15 minutes. Transer biscotti to wire rack and cool completely.

Makes 3 - 4 dozen