delicious discourse

A Banana Bread Weekend

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on August 27, 2008

Occasionally I will read other food blogs and since I do love Bon Appetit where she regularly has a column, yesterday I took a cyber trip over to Orangette’s blog. I began reading her entry on the banana bread she had baked over the weekend and found it amusing because I had baked banana bread for a first time in several months over the very same weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure Orangette and I are not the only two people in the entire world who made banana bread over the weekend—I am not that delusional. However, as I continued reading and she began talking about cinnamon and a cinnamon and sugar crumble, I realized we had made the very same recipe, which is, surprise, surprise, from Bon Appetit’s August 2008, “Best of the Bakeshops”.

The banana bread with cinnamon crumble topping is from Bakesale Betty, a bakery in Oakland. With cinnamon in the batter, the addition of honey, and a cinnamon sugar crumble topping, the recipe differs from my tried-and-true I normally use. After a crazy two weeks, I have been feeling under the weather with a scratchy throat and just that blah fatigue you get when you can feel a cold coming on, except no cold came. I must have been balancing on that very thin line between sick and not sick, and my body pulled through. Anyway, on Sunday, I needed comfort, especially after an awful breakfast at my usual go-to eatery (sitting outside on the patio Matt and I were subject to squawking birds and unruly kids—I felt as if I had been very bad and exiled to the kiddie table with the intention of causing me to go completely insane). What could be more comforting than banana bread? I had been lounging on the couch with a my new Bon Appetit, and having the sweet tooth that I do, I was digging “Best of the Bakeshops”, and the banana bread was just begging me to make it, it was quite shameful, but how could I resist? In the mood for indulgence, I added chocolate chips to the batter.

If is is possible for banana bread to be even more satisfying, it is so with cinnamon and chocolate. The flaky cinnamon sugar crumble offers the final stroke of goodness and the chocolate create creamy pockets within the dense bread. In fear that Matt and I would eat the entire loaf, he took it to work, where is was devoured. One of his co-workers claimed he always thought banana bread was missing something, but the addition of cinnamon created the kick it always needed.

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Sweet & Savory Crepes

Posted in whim by delicious:discourse on August 27, 2008

Once or twice a month I volunteer at Central Market’s Cooking School. It is a fun and educational way to not only learn about food, but scratch the itch to prepare food and taste food in a kitchen that is not yours with ingredients that you did not have buy. So, Saturday I volunteered for a morning class of Sweet & Savory Crepes, which turned out to be a relatively easy class to volunteer (which is nice for a Saturday morning) and an informative experience about all the varieties of crepes and their infinite possibilities.

I worked on prepping the Seafood Crepes, which required me to work with shrimp and scallops and also make a roux for the first time. The recipe is from the chef’s aunt, circa the 1970s. The filling turned out to be a cheesy concoction of cups of Cave Aged Gruyere, shrimp, scallops, and mushrooms. The previously made crepes were filled with spoonfulls of filling, rolled, placed into a baking dish, and smothered with the extra filling. Everyone who tasted them claimed they were divine and straight out of the 70s. I in my usual paranoia regarding Matt’s shellfish allergy, avoided them like the plague.

The other variatians prepared, taught, and served included a spinach, roasted garlic filled crepe with a roasted red pepper sauce; a creamy tarragon chicken filled crepe; chocolate crepes filled with macerated mixed berrries and garnished with chantilly creme and a sprig of mint (these were the most aesthetic-delicately folded in quarters with the dark chocolate crepe filled with pink-red berries and dolloped with white creme and mint of a natural green); and crepes Suzette made with an aromatic orange butter.

I have always been wary of crepes with the swirling stories about how hard they can be to make. The way the chef approached the topic was with the ease of an everyday approach. Crepes can be made relatively quickly and filled with almost any combination of the sweet and/or savory, making them a very real possibility for just about any meal.

DD in NYC – The Fig and the Olive, 808 Lexington Avenue

Posted in restaurants by delicious:discourse on August 21, 2008

With a name like The Fig and the Olive I feel as if I am about to read you a children’s story rather than blog about a Mediterranean Foodie Oasis in New York City. Matt and I stumbled across the F&O on previous trip. Overhearing us voicing our need for a really good cup of coffee, someone walking by told us we need to go to the F&O. So after sleeping in until noon and taking a jaunt in Central Park before the rain came down, Matt and I headed out in search of the F&O and whatever it might bring. We were desperate for a good light meal radiating sunshine, yet simultaneously cozy before we headed to the airport to be delayed hours on our flight back to Austin. Anyway, we had a wonderful meal and excellent coffee. I remember you could almost taste the grass on the sun-washed hills of Italy in one of the bowls of the olive oil trio served with your bread. Each one was so different and took you to a different place. I had never experienced olive oil like that before.

So, on the last day of our most recent trip to NYC it seemed fitting that we dine at the F&O for our last meal in the city before we headed to Newark to be delayed hours, once again, on our flight back to Austin. Once again, we were also escaping the rain outside, although rejuvenated from the meal we returned to the world outside to sparkling clear sunshine. This time however, we brought company and as far as I can judge, they were equally impressed. With its white walls, quiet and soothing interior, and pleasant wait staff, the F&O is a much needed escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Time slows down within its walls. The food, like the ambiance, is serene yet surprising and interesting, light yet radiating warmth.

With dreams of the Indian food we had had the night before, I ordered chicken samosas for munching before the main course. They were flaky, soft and delicate, filled with chicken, Greek yogurt, cilantro, bell peppers, scallions, and sundried tomato olive oil.

R, on a soup kick, opted for the Gazpacho over the Cucumber and Pink Peppercorn soup. Chilled, with tomato, bell pepper, onion, basil, and pine nuts, he savored every bite, alternating with the bowl of olives. B went for the Provencal Vegetable Salad and did not stop to talk until every bite of the grilled eggplant, zucchini, asparagus, purple onion, tomato, baby arugula, parmesan, avocado, toasted pine nuts, and 18-year-old balsamic dressing was gone. Unusual for me, I decided on the Jamon y Manchego salad. Ham, jamon, is not usually something I order, but I have been hooked on Manchego cheese since I made a pizza with it and the combination sounded too good to pass up. With jamon serrano (which is almost like proscuitto), Manchego cheese, tomatos, crushed marcona almonds, fennell, figs, scallions, over warm goat cheese toasts, it was everything I thought it would be and more. Not knowing when his next meal woul be, Matt devoured a chicken dish stuffed with goat cheese, fennel, crushed almonds, and placed on a mound of creamy polenta.

Oh, and I almost forgot, for dessert we ordered an apple tart a la mode. It was a deserving end to not only the meal, but the weekend as well.

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Coffee, Cream & Sugar

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on August 21, 2008

Coffee + cream + sugar = delicious caffeinated  comfort.

This tried and true formula proved itself once again to me last night when I used my KicthenAid ice cream attachment Matt gave me for my birthday for the very first time. I have been wanting to make ice cream all summer, first inspired by the juicy Hill Country Peaches.

As some may know, I am particularly discerning when it comes to ice cream, surprise surprise. Amy’s Ice Cream, which started in Austin, is hands down the best fix for an ice cream craving of mine. Their trademark is characteristic creaminess of unusual flavors with wacky names, like Cop Stop-coffee ice cream with donuts, or peanut butter & honey sandwich, Shiner Bock, oatmeal-raisin cookie, etc.

Flipping through David Lebowitz’s Perfect Scoop I decide coffee ice cream would be my maiden ice cream making adventure. As a kid I loved coffee ice cream—Hagen daaz preferably, but hated coffee (I have of course grown wise in my increasing years…). When my mom bought ice cream it was always mocha java chip. Anyway, with a combination of only heavy cream, whole milk, sugar, egg yolks, salt, ground coffee, coffee beans, and vanilla I created lively coffee ice cream with the creamiest of texture—all in the comfort of my own home. Now, I am wondering why store-bought ice creams have so many ingredients, many of which I cannot even pronounce. Needless to say, I have a feeling there will be many ice cream adventures to come. Beware.

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DD in New York City – Five Points

Posted in restaurants by delicious:discourse on August 20, 2008

After much research, contemplation, and many no availabilities, K secured a reservation at Five Points Restaurant for our Saturday night in New York. I have to admit Freemans and Blue Ribbon Bakery were our first choices, but Five Points turned out to be just what we needed, with a split-log running through the center holding running water, providing a babbling brook like zen. Accommodating our party of ten, the service was just right, not overly attentive and not MIA. We were seated in the back, actually at the table pictured below, which was comfortable and tucked away for all our conversation. We arrived starving, devouring the bread and ordering cocktails. Some of the memorable dishes from the Mediterranean-American seasonal summer menu were the oven baked pasta R ordered, surprising me due to its lack of protein. Apparently the layered pasta, slow cooked plum sauce, teleme, and grana cheese goodness hit the spot because there was not a bite left from the round dish about a foot in diameter. K in a comfort food mood chose the buttermilk chicken served with paprika potatoes that I kept sneaking bites of. A pork chop served with apricots was another favorite that was left no trace. I had a wonderfully buttery, yet light, pasta dish and I cannot recall the name. The pieces were smaller and harder than gnocchi, but equally delicious and warming.

After returning to Texas I glanced at their brunch menu online, I saw they have lemon ricotta pancakes (which I fell in love with in Australia), something to look forward to the next time I hit the City.

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DD in New York City – Cafe Habana

Posted in restaurants by delicious:discourse on August 20, 2008

It has been a whirlwind past two weeks, starting with an amazing trip to the Big Apple. Not only was the food delicious and varied (I can’t believe I now have to resign myself to Austin’s limited options), the company was unprecedented, the weather was fantastic minus a few showers, and the energy was vibrant. Here is the gist of my culinary adventures in the City, I recommend them all, and I hope there will be much more to come.

Cafe Habana – Starting off the first meal in NYC with a bang, my savy NY friend, K, took Matt and I to Cafe Habana. After being in hot hot Texas for way to long and getting up way to early for our 6am flight, the cold cold mojitos were just what we needed at precisely 1pm, and for the record, they were the best mojitos I had ever had. If there had not been so much to see and do, I could of sat there all afternoon, drinking mojitos and drooling over corn. Which is not exactly very like me. Located at 17th Prince in the very hip SOHO, Cafe Habana is a self-proclaimed eco-eatery (their web site is ecoeatery.com) meaning their practices are earth-friendly  in design, construction, and day-to-day operations. The cuisine is home-style Latin with Cuban and Central Mexican influences. Small and cozy on a winter’s day or warm, breezy, and oozing summer, Cafe Habana could be either, but we experienced the latter. You cannot get away with not ordering the corn appetizer—ears of grilled corn heavily sprinkled with cotija cheese, chipotle seasonings, and served with a lime wedge to be drizzled for perfection. I ordered the Omlette Caribe—an omlette with plantains and served with a green tomatillo salsa (divine), K ordered the Chilaquiles Verdes con Pollo —corn tortilla, shredded chicken casserole, tomatillo salsa, crema, and cotija cheese (divine), and Matt devoured the Molletes—toasted Cuban bread topped with refried black beans, chorizo, and salsa (divine, surprised?). I am counting down the days until I can go back.

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Breakfast for dinner

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on August 20, 2008

Since Bon Appetit’s photography is so much better than my amateur attempts at food photography (I would assume so, they have been doing this much longer than me), I chose to use their snap of my latest favorite dish I call egg toasts and they call “Poached Eggs and Parmesan Cheese over Toasted Brioche with Pistou.” For as many times as I have eaten this in the past three weeks, it is a good thing I shortened such a name, even though the dish is more than deserving of the description.

Excited about my first Bon Appetit since I subscribed, it was about time, this dish popped out at me because of a) the short ingredient list b) easy of assembly c) I love breakfast for dinner and d) what is not to love?—eggs, bread, cheese, and pesto ( pistou, please forgive me). So, Matt and I made it for dinner one night accompanied by a salad and we were hooked. We had it again last night and I can’t tell you how many nights before that because it is embarrassing. I have made a couple of substitutions from the recipe below. I use fresh French bread instead of brioche and since we have had some difficulty with the delicacy of poaching we have just been frying the eggs. Also, on my last trip to the grocery store, there was no basil, I know, unthinkable, so I bought some hatch chile pesto that has added a nice spicy, smoky twang. Once again, the options and combinations are really quite endless. Savor and enjoy.

Egg Toasts aka. Poached Eggs and Parmesan Cheese over Toasted Brioche with Pistou

1/3 c. packed basil leaves
1 garlic clove
6 T olive oil
1 egg per toast
brioche/french bread
thin parmesan slices

Combine basil, garlic, and olive oil in a food processor. Set aside. Fry or poach eggs in a pan while toasting slices of French bread of brioche. Once toasted, spread pistou on bread slice, place a parmesan slice on top of pistou and finish off with the egg.

Yes, that easy.

Bon Appetit!

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The best sort of offering….

Posted in whim by delicious:discourse on August 12, 2008

Considering my birthday was over a week ago, this post is way overdue. This was the very best birthday cake I have ever had. It may not have tasted better than my carrot cake (which cannot be beat), but sometimes a cake is so much more than a cake, and in this case it was. By far, this was the happiest cake I have come across and that happiness transcended to the smile on my face when Matt surprised me with the cake. How can you resist the perfectly pink smiley face, contrasted with fresh white and the bubble lettering of birthday wishes? Not only does it look too good to eat, it really is too good and I am having trouble not eating it. Italian cream cake with cream cheese icing and bavarian cream filling from Lucy’s Cakes. Matt and I are slowly savoring each and every bite. And like me, the cake only seems to get better with age….

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