Friday, December 28, 2007

Haikus for Jews

A few years ago, my best friend and I found ourselves in the deep depths of boredom. The holiday season was quickly approaching and we had already baked piles of cookies, wrapped up our shopping, and watched “Miracle on 34th Street” 34 times. After receiving the ubiquitous “Haikus for Jews” as an early Hanukkah gift, we read through the book several times and realized that although the haikus were funny, they were lacking that certain je ne sais quoi. After putting some food for thought in our bellies, we oiled up our sophomoric funny bones and got to work. As I reminisce and take a stroll down memory lane, I pulled out a few “oldies but goodies” from our literary bag of tricks. Of course, being Jews, we made most of them about food……..

More Haikus for Jews
by Danielle Lipes and Kate Sonders

the hard matzo ball
better than the floating kind
it makes me quiver

I ate the brisket
oiy how it filled my tummy
no room for the borscht

I want a pickle
with my pastrami sandwich
at the Jew deli

sips of red, red wine
Manishevitz makes me smile
bring on the plum wine

afikomen now
matzo, matzo burning bright
I smell your presence

I cook the koogle
with potato or noodle
I like sweet and salt

chewy and Jewy
gefilte fish is spongy
gelatin surrounds

sing the four questions
salt water and potato
precedes the ten plagues

Woody Allen sits
at a table in Times Square
Carnegie Deli

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Love Affair with Stinky Cheese

I know when my stash of stinky cheese has gone AWOL, my husband Mike is to blame. I have nary a moment to eat the stuff, as he can not tolerate even a morsel left in the fridge for more than several hours. However, it rarely lasts long as I truly can't resist the seductive power of a properly ripened, smelly cheese. But he just hates to crack open the refrigerator door, revealing a wafting Pandora’s Box of pungent odor.

As much he hates the scent of an aroma-rific cheese, I adore the taste, and even the smell. To me, the stinkier the fragrance, the more gorgeous the flavor. I tend to be a reckless adventurer when it comes to cheese. I am not suggesting that I am out of touch with my taste buds, or pick a cheese based simply on the pulchritudinous color of its rind, but I will happily stick my hyper-sensitive nose into any powerfully smelling cheese. I particularly enjoy those that an overwhelming majority might characterize as possessing an odor akin to a rancid foot locker. Yes, I like my cheese so aggressive that it up and causes air raids. I want it to wrestle with my nose and fervently slap my taste buds.

My absolute favorite stinky cheese is the French Munster, not to be confused with the oily, mild American version, Muenster, a childhood favorite commonly used to make grilled cheese sandwiches. Munster is from the Alsace region of France. It is a Monastery cheese, meaning that it originated and is currently produced in French monasteries. All I can say is that those monks know their stuff! The cheese is rind-washed with brine and aged, developing a biting odor and creamy, silken texture. It is so incredibly aggressive on the nose that it could clear a room. When properly ripened, the mouthfeel is quite barnyardy. Doesn’t this make you want to run out and buy Munster?! Smells like feet, tastes like licking a cow……officially voted by scientists at Cranford University in Bedfordshire as one of the world’s smelliest cheeses. Can’t argue with science! But if you happen to be a turophile like myself, you might just appreciate its sharp, penetrating aroma and brazen flavor.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Brain Freeze

"Snow! No!" This was my initial response to witnessing my first snowfall in four years. It is astonishing how quickly my blood thinned as a result of living the warm and toasty life in Southern California. My body is currently experiencing a goose-bump-inducing shock. Frankly, I do not enjoy being cold as a witch’s you-know-what: I begin shivering uncontrollably, which, of course, makes me hungry.

In honor of New York State’s first snowfall, I began a mental list of snow treats. Now, this list is consummately hypothetical. If the atmosphere was wholly sanitary and the breathable air as pure and sweet as that which is dispensed from a Las Vegas oxygen bar, I would be eating a pile of clean, virgin snow this moment!

Unfortunately, the atmosphere is, simply put, putrid. Therefore, you may end up consuming an acid rain snow cone, topped with sugary CO2 emissions. These snow-based desserts are purely hypothetical and as you pretend to eat them, enjoy your imaginary brain freeze!

The first snow dessert is the universal snow cone, otherwise known around the world as snowballs, piragua, raspados, ais kacang, bingsu, or juski. For the popular American treat, gather a bucket full of snow and scoop the shaved ice into little paper cups. Pour on your syrup flavor of choice and enjoy. For a more international treat, feel free to add fruit cocktail, red beans, agar agar, evaporated milk, sweet taro or chestnuts. You can buy snow cone syrup at many retailers, such as Nature’s Flavors, Rio Syrup Company or at Hawaiian Shaved Ice. Otherwise, you can make your own with sugar, water and your favorite powdered drink mix.

Sugar on Snow is a favorite treat of Vermonsters. Pour heated maple syrup (use candy thermometer to reach 233-234 degrees) onto packed snow, which yields a taffy-like candy. It is usually served with unadorned doughnuts, coffee and sour pickles. The pickles serve to cut the sweetness of the candy. Perfect for late night cravings!

You can also create ice cream made from fresh fallen snow. This blustery treat is made from snow, sugar and milk. Mix together a cup of cream, a half cup of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla. Stir in the snow and eat before it becomes ice cream soup!

As the snow continues to fall and the season becomes colder, keep one thing in mind. In the words of the late, great Zappa, “watch out where the Huskies go, don't you eat that yellow snow”.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

As the Scallops Turn

Since my aborted culinary school mission, my creative juices have been flowing. I have been spending an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen, both experimenting with new recipes and playing around with old favorites. Part of me is extremely anxious to go back to work; I do not fare well in the face of boredom. However, the little apron-cloaked devil sitting on my shoulder reinforces that I am thriving as a "stay-at-home cook". The fact of the matter is that my damned little devil has a voracious appetite to feed. It wants nothing but to concoct edible delights. Call it mental castration, but I'm enjoying this lifestyle.

It comes as no surprise that I have been experimenting with risotto. It is a pretty well known fact that risotto is one of my all-time favorite foods. It is a paradigm of perfection: easy to cook, mindless to assemble and undeniably pleasing. The other day, I took a recipe I found in Bon Appetit and amended it for the sake of experimentation. What resulted was the most intensely rich, complexly flavored risotto; it is not a true Italian risotto, since I use whiskey rather than wine to deglaze the pan.

Makes 4 main course servings

2 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved, thinly sliced crosswise (about 2 cups)
3/4 cup whipping cream

1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, cut into roughly 1/4 thick slices
1 large onion, halved, thinly sliced lengthwise
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 tablespoon white truffle oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves

1/2 stick butter, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/8 cup whiskey
5 cups (or more) hot chicken broth
Chopped fresh parsley

1 pound fresh scallops
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper
Truffle oil


For leeks:
Bring leeks and cream to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until leeks are tender and cream is thick, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm before continuing.

For mushrooms:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss all ingredients on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until mushrooms are tender and light brown around edges, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

For risotto:
Melt 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until just beginning to carmelize, about 10 minutes. Add rice; stir 1 minute. Add whiskey and stir until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup hot broth. Simmer until broth is almost absorbed, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add more broth, 1 cup at a time, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next and stirring often, until rice is tender and mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes longer. The risotto should be firm and creamy, not mushy. Stir in leek mixture, mushroom mixture and remaining 2 tablespoons butter.

For scallops:
Pat scallops dry on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Place oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add scallops and sauté in single layer without moving them until golden on one side, about 2 minutes. Flip them over and brown on second side, about 2 minutes. Transfer to plate.

Serve in wide rimmed bowls and sprinkle with parsley. Place scallops on top of risotto and drizzle with truffle oil.