Thursday, March 31, 2011

Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

I admit to being predisposed to disliking this book. I have watched Anthony Bourdain on TV once--on his show No Reservations. In the series he travels around the world and films documentary-style about food, cooking, and eating. He is loud and brash, very opinionated, and self-centered. The food did look delicious, though. So when Bourdain's Medium Raw was selected as March's Kitchen Reader book, I was a bit underwhelmed.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

mushroom pizza on water chestnut flatbreads

This month's Fresh from the Oven challenge (hosted by Helen of Fuss Free Flavours) was to bake something with locally made flour. That proved to be quite a challenge for me, here in Hong Kong. However, after a long hunt, I found this water chestnut flour. How intriguing. What is this stuff?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

weekend links #13

food reading links:
--Useful things to freeze in ice cube trays (from The Kitchn). The great ideas just keep coming as you read down into the comments.
--The periodic table of desserts (from E-blong). I think there are several geeky bakers in my life who might like this poster as a present.
--A helpful article about food photography--tips that are simple to understand and actually very useful (from Food Blog Forum).

recipe links:
--An oatmeal brownie, expect is's not a brownie, it's a hot quadrilateral (from 5 Second Rule).
--Stunning and easy Hasselback sweet potatoes (from Roti n Rice). They are almost pretty enough to be a party centrepiece!

off-topic links:
--Which house plants will clean the air in my Hong Kong apartment? Here's a list (from re-nest). That assumes that I won't kill them, of course. Which might be hard for me.
--Can a fluorescent lightbulb be beautiful? Maybe so (from Remodelista).
--We like boundaries and deadlines: enforced freedom (from Sarah Wilson).

Monday, March 21, 2011

black sesame soft pretzels (whole grain baking)

As part of the Velveeters group, I made pretzels for the first time this month. I was thrilled to try out a whole wheat recipe, especially since I recently picked up some vital wheat gluten. This makes whole wheat bread dough more fluffy--and this dough recipe was so fluffy it overspilled the bowl while it was rising. The result is a soft, chewy pretzel that's also amazingly 100% whole wheat.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

special rice

I recently read the book The Language of Baklava (see my review). The Jordanian family who populate the pages are constant hosts for numerous uncles, cousins, and friends, who frequently just happen to show up at meal times. This rice recipe is such a simple idea that takes a basic side dish and makes it into a special part of the meal. I was amazed that adding just four ingredients to the rice made such a difference.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Peruvian dishes: ceviche and papa rellenas

The best part about taking part in food blogging events is all the new things I am pushed to try. Take, for example, the Daring Cooks. Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenged us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau, and Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra.

I have never made or eaten any Peruvian food before, but fortunately we have close friends who lived in Peru. They were very willing indeed to come over for dinner, assist in the assembly of the food, and comment on its authenticity.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Kitchen Reader

One of the highlights of my month is participating in The Kitchen Reader book group. Each month we read a food-related book, and share our reviews. The books we have read have varied from food classics such as My Life in France by Julia Child, to restaurant narratives, for example Heat by Bill Burford, and home cooking tales, such as Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barabara Kingsolver. Each book I've read has been informative and entertaining, and the other group members always have something funny or insightful to say--and they have become dear friends as well.

I'm thrilled to be taking over the leadership of The Kitchen Reader. And I want to invite you to join us! In March we are reading Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain and we plan to share our reviews on March 31. Please visit the group's blog and then join in with us!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Language of Baklava, and muhammara

Diana Abu-Jaber bounced like a ping pong ball between Jordan and America as a child. Her father was an exuberant, dashing Jordanian immmigrant to the United States, her mother a quiet but stubborn American. The Language of Baklava is Abu-Jaber's memoir, in which she describes her formative years. Their family connects and reconnects to the people and places around them, leaving Diana a little confused about where she belongs. "Am I still an American?" she asks, after her re-entry to Jordan. "And it confuses me, because it seems like a kind of unbecoming or rebecoming--to turn into this other Diana--pronounced Dee-ahna, a Jordanian girl who has forgotten the taste of fluffernutter sandwhiches or Hersey's bars."

Wherever they are in the world, the family is grounded by Diana's father's cooking--his Middle Eastern food is as lively as he is. The book is full of family vignettes, focused on the relationships, the loud or quiet talk, and the flavours on the table. Abu-Jaber includes several recipes with each one, which are connected to the stories with funny titles or whimsical headnotes. I found the methods and ingredients of the recipes to be simple and accessible. I have made two recipes already and I am eagerly anticipating more creations.


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