Friday, March 30, 2007

pet food updates: dry food dangerous?

There are some disturbing new developments in the ongoing pet food recall story that confirm my suspicions that the problem is much more serious than has been reported thus far. First off, the FDA is stating that the toxin they have found in the pet food is melamine, not aminopterin as was previously reported by an independent lab. Melamine is a chemical commonly used in plastics. I don't know if this means that the earlier findings of aminopterin were simply wrong, or if melamine toxicity is consistent with the symptoms of the sick pets. There doesn't seem to be much detail about this yet.

Perhaps more disturbing is the fact that the FDA is acknowledging that there is at least one dry-food manufacturing company that may have received wheat gluten from the same supplier as Menu Foods, yet they are refusing to reveal the name of this company at this time. They just want to add to our fury, apparently. As I've said earlier, I'm just not going anywhere near any foods containing wheat gluten at all. Based on what I've been reading on various blogs over the last couple of weeks, I'd stay away from Iams...

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A six-foot-tall chocolate sculpture of Jesus on exhibit at the Roger Smith Hotel Lab Gallery has incited outrage from NYC's Catholic community. Bill Donohue, head of the watchdog Catholic League, says that "this is one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever". Really? I'm not quite sure I get what is so offensive about it. Is it because it's made of chocolate? Why is that offensive? Chocolate is delicious! Is it because he's naked instead of wearing his traditional loincloth? Apparently the sculpture is pretty well-endowed, so I don't know why people would be so upset about that. Is it because chocolate is brown? Hmmmmm...

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

baby wants mac and cheese

Min's little peanut baby has a lot of growing to do over the next few months, and what better way to put on the pounds than with some homemade Mac 'N Cheese? There are few foods more comforting than pasta and cheese, and though I love me some Annie's Shells with White Cheddar, nothing beats making it from scratch, topping it with bread crumbs and throwing it into the oven to get that crispy top. My recipe is influenced by dozens of other recipes that I've seen and tried, perfected by making it over and over again, changing up the kinds of cheeses and herbs I add to figure out which ones I like best:

Real mac and cheese is actually really simple to make. It's just a classic Mornay sauce, which I'm sure you all known is a Bechamel with grated cheese. Bechamel being one of the French mother sauces. Bechamel, or white sauce, is made up of a Roux and milk. A roux? Butter and flour in equal amounts, whisked over heat. For a Bechamel, you want a blonde roux, which simply means that you only want to cook the roux long enough to get the faintest hint of color. (A roux turns progressively darker brown the longer you cook it, dark rouxs are used, for example, in a gumbo, and have a much deeper flavor). This is totally not sounding simple, huh? It is, here's what you do:

Melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat. Sprinkle 2 tbsp flour evenly over the melted butter and immediately begin whisking. You will start to smell the flour cooking, but if it smells like it's burning, lower your heat. Keep whisking so there are no lumps and no spots burn. As soon as the roux starts to get a very light beige tint, pour in 2 cups milk and whisk until the roux is completely incorporated. Simmer on a low heat , stirring occasionally, to thicken the sauce, about 2-3 minutes. This is a Bechamel. Now you just add shredded cheese to make it a Mornay. The bulk of a classic mac and cheese should be cheddar, I like a sharp white cheddar. But I find that the best mac and cheese has a blend of cheeses. In addition to about 2 cups of cheddar, I usually add another cup of cheese, like parmesan and asiago, or romano and gruyere. Whatever you like! Stir until the cheese melts. Ta-da, a Mornay sauce! Now all you have to do is toss the sauce with your cooked pasta (undercook it by a couple of minutes, since it will go in the oven for a few minutes), pour into a baking dish, top with bread crumbs and bake until the crumb topping is browned and crisp. My favorite bread crumb topping is a combination of 1 cup panko style bread crumbs, 2-3 tbsp olive oil, and 3 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary. Bake in a 400º oven for 15 minutes until browned and crisp on top. Ridiculously delicious!

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raw food diet - for the cat? BARF!

In all the craziness of the pet food recall, I have repeatedly read requests from pet owners for advice on what we should feed our furries. Regardless of whether our store-bought pet foods were on the recall lists or not, there is a high level of paranoia and fear, partially due to the fact that we still have not gotten any conclusive answers about how or why any of this happened. One thing many of us have learned is that the ingredients in many popular pet foods are actually horrifying. Back when I first fell in love with my Opaw and realized that I was determined that she would live an unnaturally long feline life (this, of course, occurred the morning after I brought her home), I started to do extensive research about what was the absolute best food to feed her. At the time I didn't realize that she would be so damn picky. Seriously, she was born on the streets, how can she be so picky? I've really never had a pet who turned their nose up at any food, ever. Anyway, again and again I've seen people touting the Raw Food diet, prepared by the human for their pet. By the way, this diet is called BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food). Yum. So I think to myself, I love to cook, so could I do it for my cat. The short answer is - I could, but strangely enough I am nervous to try. Not necessarily because I'm not into grinding up chicken bones, but because it's actually much more complicated that you might think...

How complicated could it be? Check out this site, which pretty much convinced me that any attempt I might make at it, I would thoroughly fuck up. And I bet you anything that if I did try this and slaved over a batch of homemade food for my cat, she'd give me that look she always gives me when I try to feed her a can of anything other than fish-flavored food. So far, the only non-fish food she has ever gone crazy for is either dairy or that one turkey that I brined for Thanksgiving two years ago. What a freak. I think my temporary solution will be to trek on over to Whiskers Holistic Pet Store to pick up some of their frozen homemade pet food. I figure if she doesn't want it, at least Gaia will inhale it without thinking twice...sometimes I really miss that canine disregard for whatever the food might taste like.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

dad's pancakes - or trying to come close

Mark Bittman's article in today's New York Times focuses on various types of pancakes from different parts of the world. Like the ubiquitous dumpling, it seems that pretty much every culture has some kind of pancake, and most of them are not meant to be covered in maple syrup and served for breakfast. When I think of savory pancakes, the first thing that comes to mind is my father's scallion pancakes. He would often make a stack of those for me on the random day when I was home from school and would be lounging around the house all day. I would devour a bunch at lunchtime, then they would sit out in the kitchen calling to me for the rest of the day. Popping them into the toaster for a few minutes would recrisp the edges and brown them even further. I could continually eat them all day.

My father doesn't cook very often anymore and his scallion pancakes are only one of dozens of his dishes that I miss. It seems that no restaurant version comes remotely close. The kind I've made myself - trying to duplicate exactly what I've seen him do on dozens of occasions - does come a lot closer, but as with all of his dishes that I've attempted, there's always something mysterious missing. I guess that's the magic of the great cook. My recipe after the jump:

Almost My Dad's Scallion Pancakes


2 cups flour
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup chopped scallions, green and white parts
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
white pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil


Mix together the flour and water and knead into a smooth, workable dough. It should not be too sticky or too hard, you may need to adjust the amount of flour or water to get the right consistency. Pull off a large handful of dough and cover the rest with plastic film or a slightly damp kitchen towel. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a thin round, the thinner the better. Sprinkle several drops of sesame oil evenly onto the disk. (I usually use a pastry brush to lightly and evenly brush the oil on, I find that prevents adding too much.) Sprinkle with salt and white pepper, then sprinkle chopped scallions evenly over the surface. Roll the disk up away from you like a jelly roll, rather tightly but not so tightly that you break the dough. Then, starting at one end, roll up the log from one end to the other into a large spiral. You should be rolling parallel to your work surface so that the spiral is laying flat, it should basically look like a snail laying on its side. Tuck the end of the log under the spiral and flatten it against the board with the palm of your hand. Using the rolling pin, roll the spiral out to about 1/8 inch thick, or however thick you like it. I like it on the thin side. Continue this process with the remaining dough, stacking the completed pancakes on a plate with slightly damp paper towels or sheets of wax paper separating them. A light dusting of flour on each pancake helps prevent sticking as well.

To cook: Heat a tablespoon of oil on a skillet on medium-high. (I personally do not like using too much oil, I prefer a pancake that it pan-fried, not deep-fried. So there should not be so much oil that the pancake gets immersed.) Pan fry the pancake on both sides until golden brown and crisp. Cut into wedges.

The classic accompaniment for scallion pancakes is a soy dipping sauce similar to one served with dumplings. I usually just combine soy soy with a splash of white vinegar, a couple drops of sesame oil, and whatever scallions I have left over after making the pancakes. Of course, if you season your pancakes well enough, you shouldn't even need sauce because these are delicious as they are.

The technique of rolling the dough into a log and then into a spiral before rolling out again creates the great layered flaky pancake that I love to eat by peeling off the layers one by one. And yes, I would eat an entire pancake at a time, so there wasn't much point in cutting them into wedges...

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

the cravings begin

Awww, man. I thought that after trying Pinkberry for the first time on Saturday and not being completely blown away by it I would be safe from craving it. But now that the weather has gotten warmer, I realize that I'm totally thinking about it. Constantly. This could be dangerous...

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Monday, March 26, 2007

what a waste of some perfectly good chicken

J-Cat and I had an amusing experience on the subway Saturday night. A few seats away from us, I noticed a young couple with a really teeny baby. I could barely hear their conversation, but then I noticed the woman holding out this long hair and saying something like "Why was this hair on the back your shirt? You cheatin on me?". I whispered to J-Cat what I had heard and we giggled at how cliche it was. Then we forgot about it until a few minutes later when suddenly the woman stood up, baby in one arm and a bag of Nathan's take-out in the other and threw the bag at the guy and moved to a seat across the aisle. Several pieces of fried chicken came flying out of the bag and all over the floor, and some kind of drink spilled everywhere. The guy said nothing, and the girl just kept going on and on like "You think you can cheat on me?! You think I'm crazy?! I ain't crazy, you cheatin!" Whoa...The whole train was transfixed at this. She sat down after the outburst and continued muttering about him cheating on her and how she wasn't crazy. The best thing I heard was her saying something about how now she understands why he was taking a shower at 10 last night. The smell of whatever potent, highly unnatural drink she spilled was also now starting to fill the train. It wasn't really a bad smell, but it was crazy strong, some sort of pineapple-ish smell. I was also amused by these two girls sitting right across from us who couldn't stop laughing at all this, until the woman yelled at them to stop looking at her. At this point, J-Cat and I hadn't eaten dinner yet and I'm sad to say that we were kind of staring at the fried chicken on the floor and wishing she hadn't wasted all of it. I've never had chicken at a Nathan's before, but it actually looked really good.

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sunday supper: food therapy edition

It was a tough weekend for J-Cat and I, and it called for some serious comfort food. Let's just say that Saturday involved both my having to help my parents find a funeral home for my morbid dad, and J-Cat and I sitting at the animal hospital half the day waiting to pick up J-Cat's dog Gaia after finding a large mass at the base of her tail and taking her straight to the hospital for testing. We were both a wreck.

We tried that evening to lift our spirits (Gaia didn't need much, she got a huge treat and was happy as a clam), so we finally got around to checking out Pinkberry. J-Cat realized that a medium with 3 toppings costs less that a small with 3 toppings and somehow we both ended up with giant cups of frozen yogurt which we both finished. It was good. I wouldn't say that it was at the level of calling it Crackberry, but give me a couple of days and see if I start craving it.

Anyway, on Sunday I decided that we needed something yummy and comforting, something that filled up the apartment with a delicious aroma all day. So I braised some lamb shanks:

I got the recipe in The Joy of Cooking, which I can't believe I never owned until now. The spices were all super-aromatic: cinnamon, allspice, cumin, coriander, and mint. It was highly reminiscent of a lamb dish that J-Cat and I went crazy over at a random Greek restaurant in Astoria. The shanks braised for about 2 hours and it smelled unbelievable. At the end of the braise you toss in some chopped carrots and butternut squash.

I served it over orzo. The sauce was so rich and intense; the lamb had released an amazing amount of flavor into the braising liquid, and because shanks are a cut with a lot of connective tissue, the sauce thickened itself. You finish the sauce with more fresh mint and a squeeze of lemon juice to give it a little acidic edge. J-Cat says this may be in the top five of his all-time favorite dishes.

For dessert, I randomly decided on a Lebanese semolina cake called a Sfouf. A very simple recipe, which I found on



2 cups semolina
1 cup plus 1 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup salted butter, melted
1 cup sugar, plus 3 tbsp
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup slivered almonds


Preheat oven to 350º. Combine semolina, flour, turmeric and baking powder. In another bowl, combine melted butter, sugar, milk and water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. Pour batter into a greased 9x13" baking dish, sprinkle the almonds on top, and bake for 30-35 minutes until set.

I don't have a great 9x13 pan, so I instead used a large round springform pan. It worked perfectly fine. I did not use all of the sugar thinking that middle eastern desserts are often super-sweet. I used slightly less than a cup and it was really perfect. I also used half salted butter, half unsalted, because that was what I had left and it was fine. And of course I used 2% milk because I'm terrible at planning and had nothing else. The cake was dense and slightly chewy, with a great grainy texture from the semolina. I like that it wasn't terribly sweet, it was fine with a dollop of whipped cream on top. It would also be great with some greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey, and of course a super strong coffee.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

take a look inside

It's my cat in a box!

This one's for Burt. But remember: "Do not use sharp object to open!"

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Friday, March 23, 2007

recall updates

Please be sure to check the Howl911 website for updates on the ongoing Pet Food Recall. ABC News reported this morning that there may have been a breakthrough in the search for the toxin - a type of rat poison on the wheat that was imported from China. The type of rat poison suspected is illegal in the United States. The discovery was made at the NY State Food Laboratory, and scientists caution that they do not know if this is the only toxin responsible for the poisonings. Hopefully this new information will help vets who are treating sick pets. On a heartbreaking note, Pet Connection is now reporting over 1000 deaths attributed to the recall. The website has been independently compiling owner reports of sick and dying pets in an attempt to get a clearer idea of the scope of the problem. The "official" death toll in the Menu Foods press release stands at 15. Vets at the Animal Medical Center here in NY warn that fatalities could be in the thousands. The Menu Foods plant in Kansas which manufactured the tainted food is still operating today.

Vets are also warning that if your pet has eaten one of the recalled foods, it is a good idea to have their kidney function tested even if they are exhibiting no symptoms. Although thus far it seems as if the tainted food caused Acute Renal Failure (ARF) - which is sudden and dramatic - there is still the possibility that pets could develop Chronic Renal Failure (CRF)- which is slower to develop and not necessarily as obvious to detect. Cats are especially good at hiding illness.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

browsing through the Williams-Sonoma catalog

Ah, the Williams-Sonoma catalog. The pinnacle of cooking porn. Let's see what awesome stuff I'm desperate to have but totally can't afford.

Let's just start right from the top: the cover photo of a shiny All-Clad fondue pot, $149.95. Ah, the utter excess highlighted right at the front promises this to be a good issue. Man, do I love cheese, but it can't be necessary to spend that much money on a fondue pot. How often does anyone make fondue? I must give props for the photo composition, though, the reflection of the veggies in the side of the pot is quite lovely. I'm a sucker for those little carrots with the green tops still on them.

Page 4: Croissants in a stoneware basket. The basket is kinda lame but the croissants look amazing. Makes me want to skip directly to page 20, where the caption assures me I will be able to ogle them again.

Page 6: Shun Bamboo Board & Mezzaluna, $149.95. That's the lucky price, I guess. It's really quite beautiful and I love the way the mezzaluna blade slides down into the board for storage, that seems a lot safer than my Wusthof double-blade mezzaluna that slides only into the flesh of my finger. It makes me wish I didn't already have a board and mezzaluna. It also makes me wish I had money.

Page 11: Recipe for Crepes with Berries and Ricotta. Clipped!

Page 20: Oh those delicious croissants are back, and two pics on one page! Williams-Sonoma Catalog, you do tease me so. Especially because the next page taunts me with the possibility of ordering Three Months of Croissants for $89. 42 Croissants in 90 days, people, that is true luxury.

Pages 24 - 27: Blah blah blah you can't eat table settings. Oh, I also don't have a kitchen table...

Page 49: Shun Ken Onion 7" Hollow-ground Santoku Knife, $199.95. Oh lordy is that a beauty. Not that I want to be disloyal to my beloved Wustof Santoku knife which I literally use for everything, but I covet this knife desperately. Also, it's so great that the guy's name is Ken Onion, cause that knife would be awesome for slicing onions.

Page 55: Stainless-steel Rolling Mincer, $35.00. This 5-blade rolling mincer looks sooooo dangerous, I love it.

Pages 60-69: What's with the cleaning and household shit? You're wasting valuable catalog space!

Page 80: Wreaths?! WTF?!

Page 85: Bunny Cake Pan, $36.95. This three-dimensional bunny-shaped cake pan is quite cute, but the instructions telling me that I can bake both halves of the bunny and stick them together with frosting is seriously overestimating my baking skills. My bunny would so not be standing upright. And there's nothing more depressing on Easter than a gimpy bunny.

And that's all for this edition of Browsing Through the Williams-Sonoma Catalog. Don't miss the next installment upon the arrival of the next new catalog, which is, let's face it, likely to be tomorrow.

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cured meats sell themselves

I just wrote an email to one of my producers and the spellcheck didn't recognize the word "prosciutto". It suggested that I change that to "prostitute".

God, prosciutto is such a whore.

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food for the senses

I'm a big believer in the idea that food can feed all five senses. And though of course the senses of taste and touch are paramount in importance to me as a cook and an eater, lately I've been obsessing about the sound of food. How often do we take a moment and listen to our food? And I'm not just talking about the sound of Rice Crispies or Pop Rocks. When I pull a freshly baked loaf of bread out of the oven, I lean in and listen to that faint crackle as it continues to cook. That first burst of sizzle when the onions hit the hot oil, the cracking of the crust on top of a creme brulee, even the sound of the hot water pouring into the coffee pot, it's all like music to me.

One of the things I've noticed in the more recent years of cooking shows is that more attention seems to be paid to the sounds of cooking that in the past. I think it is one of those things that makes a cooking show so relaxing. The sound of peeling the paper skin off of an onion, the sound of chopping it up, the sound of gently dropping the pieces into a bowl. Does that make me an obsessed person? Is it because, as a musician, I'm especially attuned to sound? Perhaps, but all I really know is that sometimes just listening to the sound of cooking can satiate me, and you have to admit that's probably a little better for my waistline.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

mmmmm donut

Snow Donuts! No, really!

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I am having one of those days where I must be cursed or something. I'm being a huge klutz, even more so than usual. First I spilled more than half of the lentil soup that I brought in for lunch. I ate what I had left and am waiting to see if I will be starving in an hour. I spilled it while trying to put it into the microwave, which sits on a ledge above the sink in the pantry. So I guess I was lucky that majority of the spillage went into the sink and not on my head, and cleaning it up wasn't horrifying. That is, until I turned on the hot water to rinse out the sink and burned my freakin hand. Aren't there supposed to be temperature regulators on taps to prevent that shit? Shortly after that lovely incident, I closed my right index finger in a desk drawer. I have soup on my sleeve. I need to go home and get in bed immediately, before I can inflict any further damage on myself and others.

UPDATE: Oh it got worse. On my way home I managed to inhale/swallow some sort of bug. The worst part is that I swear it felt like the bug was still alive but stuck to the back of my throat and struggling to break free. For a few seconds I was gagging and coughing and wondering if there was some way to get it out and avoid swallowing it. After a while I realized that there was no way to get it out and that I had to just swallow if I wanted it to stop tickling and gagging me. I could still feel something in the back of my throat until I got home and guzzled about a gallon of water.

I followed this up by splashing sludgy coffee all over my shirt and the kitchen wall while doing the dishes. I'm going to bed right now.

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opaw likes her cat food poison-free, thanks

I think some people who have heard me ranting about this pet food recall the last few days don't really get why I am so upset and furious. Of course part of it was overwhelming concern and anxiety for my kitty, and even though I feel like enough time has passed that Opaw would already be sick if she had gotten tainted food, I can't help but realize that she is really really lucky. Had I bought her last case of food even 1 week later than I did, it would likely have been a tainted batch...

But even though I am beginning to calm down about my own cat's health, seeing the horrifying aftermath for the dozens of pets who were not so lucky is still upsetting me a great deal. The worst of it is that every day more and more information regarding the gross negligence of both the manufacturing company and the FDA begins to leak out and pet owners everywhere are coming to the horrible realization that most of these deaths could easily have been prevented.

I understand that accidents can happen. An e. coli outbreak due to spinach or scallions can be tragic, it happens. But when a manufacturer is made aware of deaths potentially due to their products, then takes their sweet time to conduct tests to determine if this is true, then, upon discovering that it is indeed true takes close to one month to report the problem and initiate a product recall, it goes beyond a tragic mistake and becomes criminal. In my mind, it's as simple as that.

And now, where once there were dozens, perhaps hundreds, of healthy, happy dogs and cats, there is only grief and questions. Why did they wait a week to start testing their foods after receiving complaints about sick and dead animals? Why, when 1 out of every 6 lab animals died from eating this food did they say nothing to the public or the FDA? Why was there no recall until March 16 when the first reports of deaths were back on February 20? Why despite adding brand names and batch numbers continuously to this recall list, has the public not been made aware that the recall is ever-expanding? Why, to this day, does the FDA still not know which wheat gluten manufacturer Menu Foods is blaming? Why are the major news outlets barely reporting on this? Why are official reports only listing 14 deaths - including the 7 lab animals - when an independent pet website has amassed a list of at least 241 dead and hundreds more sick? Why is the Menu Foods plant still open and producing pet food when they have yet to identify the cause?

For those of you with pets out there, please please please continually check the recall list. Brands, batch numbers, and types of food are being added to this list every day. Although they are still claiming that only wet foods are dangerous, there have been accounts of dogs getting sick from dry foods. Go to Howl911 for the best round up of current recall information.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

it ain't pretty

...but it sure is tasty.

Usually when J-Cat is out of town, I don't bother cooking anything that isn't incredibly simple and quick. It's not exactly easy to cook anything of note for only 1 person. But today I was just craving fish, and some whole striped bass at the fish market looked wonderful. It just so happens that a baked whole fish is one of the easiest dishes to cook.

A fish like this calls for a very simple preparation to take advantage of the clean fresh favor. My favorite way to cook a whole fish is to stuff the cavity with any variety of fresh aromatics and simply bake it. Some of my favorite stuffing combinations are scallions and ginger, leeks and paprika, lemon and thyme, or lemon and fennel. Last night I decided I wanted lemon and fennel.

I don't use any particular recipe for this fish, I just checked several baked whole fish recipes to determine the ideal temperature and cooking time. Click through for my recipe:


1 1.5-2 lb whole striped bass (a whole red snapper would be just as good)
1/2 medium fennel bulb, sliced very thin
1 small lemon, sliced very thin
olive oil for greasing pan

Preheat oven to 400°. Grease a baking pan large enough to hold the whole fish. Rinse the fish, including the cavity, with cold water, then pat dry with paper towels. Season the cavity with salt and pepper, then stuff with the fennel and lemon slices. Tie securely with butcher's twine to prevent the stuffing from spilling out. Season the fish with salt and pepper and place on the greased pan. Cook on the middle oven rack for 15 minutes, then flip and cook an additional 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the fish. Figure approximately 15 minutes per pound. A 2 pound fish should serve as many as 4 people depending on what you serve it with, but in my house it only serves 2...

I love to serve this with coconut rice, which is simply basmati rice steamed in coconut milk instead of water.

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everyone's a critic

I'm currently reading Heat by Bill Buford and I can't put it down. Apparently this bothers Opaw to no end:

She'll do anything to get my attention off the book and on to her. The same goes for the computer, which she hates with a passion. She'll hijack that any chance she gets and as soon as she does, she's breaking laws:

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Monday, March 19, 2007

a different kind of food

I hope that by now all pet owners are aware of the massive pet food recall that was announced this weekend. Menu Foods, the manufacturer of dozens of different pet foods under various name brand and supermarket labels, announced a recall on a long list of dog and cat foods after an undisclosed number of illnesses and deaths. There is considerable discussion about how Menu Foods is handling the recall. Apparently, they were notified of sick animals and a possible connection to their food at some time before March 6, in fact, it must have been a significant amount of time because by March 6 they already had enough suspicion about a recent supplier switch that they switched again on that date. However, they did not initiate a recall until March 16. They waited more than 10 days, and I have already seen people posting about their sick or late pets that had eaten food purchased after Menu Foods already knew about the contamination, but before they revealed it.

I am also seeing accounts of pets who got sick on foods whose batch numbers were not on the recall list. Opaw was occasionally eating Nutro Natural Choice pouch food, and while the batch number on her pouches was not on the list, I am still very nervous about this. The last time I fed her one was just this past Friday, and though she has not shown signs of illness this weekend, apparently renal failure can be a slow process that is not always easy to detect until it's too late.

As late as this morning, the list of affected brands was still increasing. Now, popular brands like Iams, Eukanuba, and Science Diet are also on the list. Though Menu Foods claims that they have not found any contaminate in their foods, they do think that it could have something to do with a change in their supplier of wheat gluten back in early December. Most news reports are stating that there have only been about 10 deaths, however, just from looking at a couple of different forums about the recall, I have already seen over a dozen postings from pet owners who have lost a pet in the last couple of weeks.

I am only going to feed Opaw the foods that I have that do not contain wheat gluten at all. That includes Merrick, Innova EVO, and California Natural. Here is the most recent information on the recall, including a complete list of brands.

UPDATE: Please note that there are reports that Menu Foods has been continually updating the recall list on their website, but not indicating on that list that it has been updated. As late as this morning, they had added both brand names and additional batch numbers of previously recalled labels to the list, but left the date of the list as March 16. It looks as if the manufacture period for the tainted food is ever expanding, and Menu Foods is not trying too hard to make this known.

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greek is good

One of the perks of my job is the occasional invitation to a free dinner or reception. Nothing makes me happier than free meals. The other night, my colleague Brian and I got to go to a dinner at a new Greek restaurant in Greenwich Village, Gus's Place. The restaurant is actually a second incarnation of a longtime Village favorite. Gus had lost the lease on the original space, and it took him 2 years to find a suitable replacement. Gus himself is a wonderfully warm man who makes you feel like your long lost Greek grandfather thinks you need to eat more. We enjoyed a variety of starters including classic hummus, tzatziki, tarama salada, spanakopita, grapes leaves, etc, etc. The hummus was especially notable, with a tangy acidic flavor and perfect texture. My main course was an oven roasted rainbow trout with cous cous. The trout was excellent, with a flavorul broth and a nice touch of butter, topped with green onions, tomatoes, and herbs. The cous cous was a little on the dry side, but the pine nuts and currants added nice balance. Brian got the mezedes, a sort of sampler platter of lamb, merguez, shrimp and salad. I of course ate my share of his plate, the merguez was excellent - quite spicy and flavorful without being too greasy. For dessert, I had Bougatsa, a pastry of fig custard wrapped in phyllo dough and drizzled with honey. It was a little softer that I would have wanted it, you could tell it had been sitting in refridgeration for some time, and the fig flavor was more subtle that it should be. But overall, it was all delicious. I was obscenely stuffed. It is a nice return to the neighborhood in a city that is oddly light on good Greek food.

It also happened to be about half a block away from the shooting of two auxiliary police officers that had happened just the night before. Gus pointed out to us the awning and planter boxes across the street that had been hit by bullets, and told how the patrons and staff in his restaurant got down on the floor upon hearing dozens of gunshots, not knowing what was going on.

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fun new look, same great taste

You may have noticed that things are looking a little different around here. Yeah, I got tired of that old look. Now that my blogging leans more and more toward the food I eat and the food I cook, I thought it would be appropriate to get rid of all the colorful frills and let the food speak for itself.

The new abundance of food photos does coincide with the purchase of a new Canon Elph camera.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

the multiple lives of corned beef

Corned beef is one of the most unattractive foods.

But one of the most delicious.

I also love that there are so many awesome things that you can make out of the leftovers, like corned beef hash, which admittedly looks like dog food.

But is still crazy delicious.

Even after two batches of hash - the first inhaled by Josh, the second taken over to Van and Pam's for brunch this morning - there is still a large hunk of corned beef left over, which means I need to go get some rye bread for the perfect sandwiches.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

bread & opaw

Finally I have gotten around to uploading a bunch of the photos that have been sitting on my much hated camera. So welcome to my gallery of bread!

This was my first attempt at Jim Lahey's No Knead bread recipe on Thanksgiving. It came out really well but did not rise as high as I had hoped.

This was my second and much more successful attempt. Look at the gorgeous cracking on the topcrust!

Here is a side view. I think you can see the airiness of the texture. It makes a wonderfully chewy interior balanced with the shardy crust.

And here is today's Irish Soda Bread.

Like an idiot I forgot to add the caraway seed, but I am really happy with it. It's dense and slightly sweet with a nice crust.

And here's Opaw in a box, just because.

Opaw is a tomato.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

weekend food coma

Tomorrow is St. Paddy's Day, and while I'm celebrating the fact that it's a Saturday and I won't have to be in Manhattan for the boozefest, I'll be putting together my own Irish feast. On the menu is traditional Irish Soda Bread with Irish Cheddar and apples, Corned Beef and Cabbage with Horseradish Sauce and potatoes, and an Apple Crumble with Whiskey Cream. The best part about moving my usual Sunday cooking fest to Saturday is that the leftovers will turn into Corned Beef Hash on Sunday morning.

I'm a bit of a purist when I'm attempting a dish that is traditional and well-known, so I did my share of searching around for different recipes to determine what I thought were the most vital classic elements for each dish.

For the Irish Soda Bread, I found a recipe that seemed to incorporate all of the major elements without any fussy reimagining, from a website called that I had never heard of before. This should be interesting.


2 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. butter, chilled
1 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt


Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

Cut in the butter until it is pea-sized. Stir in the raisins and buttermilk or yogurt. Turn the dough onto a floured surface, knead 1 minute, and shape into a disk.

Cut an "X" in the top and bake on a greased baking sheet for 45 to 50 minutes.

Makes one 8-inch-wide loaf.

The one thing the recipe does seem to be missing is caraway seeds, so I'll probably just add a teaspoon or two. The best thing about this recipe is that it calls for buttermilk, meaning there will be leftover buttermilk for biscuits to go with the corned beef hash on Sunday morning.

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food finds

Lately I've been reading a lot of food blogs while I'm at work. What? It's research for my job! Sort of...Anyway, I think blogging has revolutionized the way a lot of people think about cooking. A passionate home cook posting photos of their kitchen accomplishments and having the freedom to go into detail about the intricacies of recipes, experiments, ingredients, and techniques puts a vast amount of useful information at your fingertips at no cost to the reader. I'm always looking for new ideas or even just for insights into popular recipes. Just look at the crazy internet frenzy over the recent No-Knead bread recipe from the New York Times. Before I even had the chance to try the recipe out, I had read dozens of fellow cooking enthusiasts weighing in on all aspects of the recipe - from what pot they thought worked best, to elements that they thought were mistakes but actually worked, to minor adjustments that gave better results - saving me perhaps half a dozen less than perfect bread loaf attempts before I would have come to the same conclusions. These food bloggers are my true people.

One of the most beautiful and interesting blogs out there is Smitten Kitchen, and the other day I tried out a roasted tomato pasta sauce that she adapted from Hello. I used the dependably ripe grape tomato, and as I didn't have the time(or energy) to whip up a batch of fresh pasta that day, I just picked up a pack of fresh fettuccine at the Italian grocery store here in the Chelsea Market. The incredible depth of flavor that oven-roasting the tomatoes brought out was sublime. It would be just as good topping some toasted crusty Italian bread as an appetizer.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

photo finished

I need a new camera. For the last few years, I have had to contend with what may well be the shittiest digital camera known to man. It's a Canon Powershot A200 - or something like that. It's slow as all hell, takes crappy pictures, sucks up battery life so severely that even other batteries not in the actual camera seem to die just because they're sort of nearby. The battery door also broke off ages ago. I can't even say how much I utterly despise this camera. And what peeves me most of all is the fact that because of how much I hate it, I have barely taken any pictures since I've owned it. That means that Opaw's younger years, and trips to Brazil and Argentina and Spain and London, and my nephews and niece, and my cutie boyfriend, all are pathetically underrepresented in the world of photos.

So I'm trying to decide what to get and doing any sort of research is making my head explode. I don't fucking know. I don't need the greatest camera in the world. I'm not going to pay megabucks for a SLR. I just need something that is reasonably fast (like faster that a billion years to take one freakin picture!), takes decent photos of normal size (I can't imagine wanting something bigger than 5X7), and is really small so I'll actually carry it around and take pictures. Is that too much to ask?

Any suggestions? I looked at the Canon Elph of course, but my previous experience with Canon makes me a little wary. I've seen good reviews of the Kodak Easyshare V530. Anything else I should consider?

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