Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mezcal, de todos modos

Para todo mal, mezcal…para todo bien, también.

I saw that scrawled on a bathroom wall in a bar in Mexico City. “For all that’s good, mezcal…and for the bad stuff too.” Except that in Spanish, it rhymes. Sort of. It’s bar loo graffiti wisdom, which I've always felt should be taken seriously.

We came back from our trip Mexico with this bottle of El Mero mero, from Oaxaca. 

It’s a beaut. Translating loosely from its own label and based on what I’m tasting, it’s a clean and bright, smoky and vaguely metallic.  It’s un-aged, so clear as water. And I’ve been serving it with orange slices, which I dust with a little smoked paprika (I suspect they can be sprinkled with piquín instead).  

And for heaven’s sake, don’t shoot this stuff! Sip it slow, while eating oranges and other nibblies. With my friend Mika, we ate Soma’s Old School chocolate instead of oranges, which was just as perfect. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Michoacán, for the living and for the dead...

Today's our last full day in Mexico City. Six weeks flew by, and I'm feeling very much at home here again. I'll have better things to write when I'm back in Toronto, with a little post-trip perspective. (I'm also bringing back a few recipes, which I'm sure you'll be seeing here).

But in the meantime, here's a little treat: Andrew's video of La Noche de muertos --- the night of the dead. We went to the state of Michoacán for the Day of the Dead, and on the night of November 1st, we explored towns that dot the shore of Pátzcuaro Lake. We saw four cemeteries that night, one of them on a small, quiet island called La Pacanda. As villagers kept their dead company in the cemetery, the island's church bell tolled.

Day of the Dead from Andrew Budziak on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lucky Encounters

Stumbling upon unexpected treasures is something that keeps happening here. In Mexico City, you can find things to do just by wandering aimlessly. Even if you are walking somewhere with purpose, you’re likely to be side swept by something interesting. Or in my case, something tasty.

Today, on our way to the ruins of the Aztec temple wedged in next to the giant Catedral Metropolitana, we happened upon the Museum Nuestra Cocina Duque de Herdez … basically, the Mexican cooking museum!

The first two photos are from their pre-Hispanic kitchen exhibit. The last two, below, are from the colonial period. I absolutely love the tiled wood stoves and the comales.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mexico City is for eating

We landed in Mexico City in Monday. It's been a thrill to showing Andrew this city I love. We've been busily rushing from food cart to cantina to market, trying to fit what we can into our stomachs.

Our apartment has a perfect little kitchenette (une cuisinette!!), which I baptized on Wednesday by making a chicken soup. And then Andrew made this video!

Diane at the Market from Andrew Budziak on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

This Is The Stuff

I love this cornbread recipe. It’s unusual, because it has a bit of a Middle East meets Deep South quality to it. Instead of butter or lard, you have olive oil. And the Aleppo pepper is so perfect in this. I like it fresh out of the oven, with butter. I like it toasted. I like it with breakfast, and I’ve made some pretty brilliant avocado and cheese sandwiches with it.

Aleppo pepper might be hard to find. Here in Toronto, I get it at Akram’s in Kensington Market. But if you can’t find it, you could approximate the taste with sweet paprika and a pinch of cayenne. Or perhaps flaked ancho chilies? But if you are able to get Aleppo, it’s worth it. It offers a gentle, sweet heat. You’ll find plenty of use for it in yoghurt sauces, kabobs, rubs, stews… or maybe this egg recipe.

Instead of posting the recipe, I’m going to send you to where I originally came across it, on the Smitten Kitchen blog. Click here for cornbread!

In a pinch, I’ve used yoghurt instead of sour cream, and substituted the buttermilk for plain milk with a splash of vinegar. It was just fine, so don’t feel you have to run out and buy all sorts of dairy if you don’t have it. And I sometimes throw in a handful of pine nuts, which is perfectly lovely. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Turkish Menemen, or Eggs at Their Best

Menemen is eggs, poached in a fragrant tomato and red pepper simmer, heaped into bowls and served with garlicky yoghurt.  It’s a Turkish dish, and I love the combination of spices. I’ve made it without the red pepper, and it was just as delicious.

Make the garlic yoghurt first, and leave it at room temperature while you prepare the eggs. Serve with good sliced bread or flatbread. Or wait until next week, when I’ll post a recipe for Aleppo pepper cornbread, which is a perfect partner for menemen (and which uses the same Aleppo chili flakes you’ll need in this egg dish).

Menemen with Garlic Yogurt

Adapted from a recipe in Anna Hansen’s The Modern Pantry
Serves two hungry people, or four kinda peckish people

For the garlic yoghurt:

¼ cup olive oil
1 cup plain or greek yoghurt
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
The juice of half a lemon

For the menemen:  

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp Aleppo chili flakes
A thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 sweet red pepper diced
6 large ripe tomatoes, diced
4 good quality eggs
Salt and pepper

To serve:

A swirl of good quality olive oil
A good handful of chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley

            First, make your yoghurt. Combine the olive oil, yoghurt, garlic and lemon juice in a small bowl, mix well. Salt to taste. Leave at room temperature while you prepare the menemen.

            In a heavy cast iron pan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the fennel, cumin, mustard seeds and Aleppo chili flakes.  Sauté gently, letting it just fizzle a tad, for 4 minutes, or until the aroma fills the kitchen. Throw in the ginger, onion and garlic, and continue sautéing for a few minutes more, until the onions have softened but not browned. Add the tomatoes and red pepper. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, over low heat for 10 minutes, until it thickens. 

            Taste for seasoning, and add a pinch of salt and some pepper to taste.  Now crack the eggs onto the mixture, and cook, undisturbed for about five minutes. You want them cooked, but the yolks still runny. To encourage the tops to steam, you might want to use a lid for part of the cooking pan.

            To serve, swirl olive oil, and sprinkle the parley. Gently scoop the eggs out into shallow bowls, along with the tomato mixture. Serve piping hot, with bread or toast. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

From Montfort Dairy, with Love

When I go to market, I like speaking to Ruth Klahsen, the owner and lead cheesemaker at Montfort Dairy.  She tells me which cheese I should melt on pizza, which will go nicely in a sandwich and which, she says with a twinkle, is just perfect with a glass of wine.

Most recently, I got the Pecorino fresco --- a young, soft, and subtle sheep’s cheese. My perfect lunch? This cheese, with fat slices of fresh tomato, coarse salt, and basil on a garlic-rubbed toast.  I ate this every day for lunch when I was off in July, along with chicken liver terrine. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sharing Nuts

I made these nuts the other night. They are so freaking addictive.

Instead of posting the recipe on my own blog today, I’m just going to forward you to Tartine Gourmande. She recently posted her version, so it seems unfair to adapt and post my own so soon. Also, you’ll get to see her fantastic photography.

But here are some key points:

-Maple Syrup!

Just a note on the recipe – I think I whipped the egg white too much, and ended up with slightly sticky nuts. Don’t do that. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

A few scattered notes

I just finished devouring Blood, Bones & Butter –a book, not the actual stuff—by the chef and owner of a New York restaurant called Prune.  Gabrielle Hamilton starts her memoir with a scene from her childhood in rural Pennsylvania; an outdoor party her father threw every year, with several lambs on a spit, turning over hot coals all day.

The first scenes remind me of my father’s own michoui.

That’s where any similarities end.  A few pages later, she’s seventeen, in New York City, and has just been charged with Grand Larceny and Possession of Stolen Property after a year of slipping profits into her waitress’ apron at a busy Manhattan bar.

Before I knew anything about Grabrielle Hamilton, or her beautiful book, we went to her restaurant. I wrote about it back then.

(If I recall, that photo you see there are of the remnants of a beautiful poached pear and chocolate dessert)

On an unrelated note, here’s a link to my friend Sal Ciolfi’s piece on life after Crohn’s, and on "seeing the rainbow" of a grocery store now that he can eat whatever he pleases.  Click here for Sal. 

And one last not-so-nimble segue:

I can’t believe the colours at the market these days. I love this time of year. Rainbow, indeed. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lemonade to Keep in Your Fridge at All Times

Mint, rosemary and VANILLA lemonade. Vanilla! I made it for our friends Jon and Kelli the other night, and from now on and until the fall, I’m going to keep a batch in the fridge, always.

The recipe is from A New Turn in the South, and like the lemonade, Hugh Acheson’s book will have a heavy presence in my summer rotation (I wrote about his peach pie in my latest post).

The lemonade is great on its own. Kelli tried it with her beer, and was surprised to find it worked—even with the vanilla note. And I am absolutely sure it would be good with vodka, bourbon or even tequila.

The very last glass poured from the pitcher is the most vanilla-ish; the seeds, which make it through the straining, sink to the bottom rather prettily.

Damn, this is good stuff.

Mint, Rosemary and Vanilla Lemonade
Adapted from Hugh Acheson’s recipe in A New Turn in the South

8 cups water, just boiled
8 lemons, halved and juiced (you’ll use both the juice and what remains of the lemons)
1 cup white sugar
10 sprigs of fresh mint, plus a handful of leaves to garnish the pitcher / glasses
1 or 2 sprigs rosemary
1/2 vanilla bean

In a large non-reactive pot or bowl, put the lemon juice and the juiced halves, the sugar, the mint sprigs, the rosemary and the vanilla (split the pod, scrape the seeds into the pot or bowl, and throw the empty pod in, too). Pour the boiling water over, give it a gentle stir, and let it stand for 30 minutes, leaving the flavours to infuse.

Strain the liquid into a large pitcher, discard the solids, and refrigerate. Serve very cold, over ice, with some fresh mint leaves. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Peach Pie

In this heat, all I want to do is cook from A New Turn in the South. Hugh Acheson is from Ottawa, but he cooks in Athens, Georgia, and in Atlanta.

And his kind of cooking—definitely southern, with refreshing twists that will cool you right down—sits well with me on these hot, humid Toronto days.

When I bought a basket of peaches at the market, I went straight for Acheson’s cookbook.

Admittedly, peach pie that needs to be baked for forty-five minutes is not his best recipe for the hottest days.  You have a choice: Either wait for a cool day, or promise yourself you won’t lose it and kill someone in your excruciatingly hot kitchen.

Peach Pie
Adapted from Hugh Acheson’s recipe in A New Turn in the South

Pie crust (your favourite butter-based recipe), enough for two layers of a 9-inch pie plate
½ cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
3 tablespoons arrowroot OR 2 tablespoons cornstarch plus 1 tablespoon white flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Peaches (Acheson recommends 8 large ones, I used a dozen smallish ones), peeled, pitted and sliced)
1 ½ cold butter, cubed
1 egg, beaten

First, prepare your dough. Roll out the bottom on a floured surface, and place into a 9-inch pie plate, trimming the excess. Roll out the top dough, and punch out a few decorative (and practical—the steam will escape) shapes with a small cookie cutter. You can reserve the punched out pieces to decorate the top of your pie, too.

In a large bowl, combine the sugars (except for the 1 tablespoon, which you’ll reserve for the top of the pie), arrowroot, cinnamon and salt. Mix in the peach slices until coated evenly. Immediately (and before the whole thing becomes a goopy mess), pour into the prepared pie dish. Scatter the cubed butter over the fruit, and place the second layer on top, pinching, crimping and trimming to make it tidy. With a brush, spread a thin layer of egg (if you are decorating your pie with the cutouts, coat the under side of the cutouts to make them stick). Sprinkle the sugar on top.

Place the pie in the freezer for 15 minutes or so, while you heat your oven to 415F. Place a large cookie sheet in the oven to heat it up. That is something I’ve just learned from Acheson. I believe it helps distribute the heat evenly across the pie crust.

To bake the pie, place the plate on the pre-heated cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven to 370F and bake for a further 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden, and the peach filling is bubbling enthusiastically.  Serve with much vanilla ice cream and preferably outside, under the shade.