Saturday, August 04, 2001
the continuing humid weather and poor air quality is getting me down! i spent most of the day with a sneeze and a headache, holed up in the bedroom with the air conditioner on and reading about chocolate.
i have to confess that i'm just not feeling well. but i take my obligation to you seriously, so let's consider this recipe for an easy espresso mousse. note that if you don't have a grinder capable of turkish-fine powder, you can just use 1/2 c. warm fresh-made espresso:
2 tablespoons freshly ground espresso, turkish (powdery fine) grind or instant espresso powder
16 oz. 55% chocolate, chopped or broken into pieces
1/2 c. hot water
2 c. whipping cream
combine the hot water and espresso powder in a large microwave-proof bowl. add the chocolate, set microwave to med. high and melt for 1 min. stir, and replace in microwave. melt for another min., stir. repeat until all the chocolate has melted smoothly.
let chocolate mixture cool. in the meantime, place bowl of stand mixer and whip beater in freezer for 5 mins. when chilled, attach whip to mixer and whip cream on speed 10 for 2 mins to medium-firm peaks.
place a large dollop of whipped cream into cooled chocolate mixture and stir to lighten chocolate. then pour chocolate mixture into whippped cream and gently fold. divide mousse between 4 champage or wine glasses, cover with plastic wrap, and chill. to serve, garnish with berries, more whipped cream, etc.
now please forgive me while i go back to bed. either my allergies are getting to me or i have some kind of wacky wacky cold. . .
Friday, August 03, 2001
very hot sticky day today! made me really feel like some iced coffee. but i was on my way to the dentist. . .late as usual.
after i finished my little procedure, the dentist talked to me about a tooth-whitening process that's very popular here in new york now, britesmile. it uses lasers and takes about an hour.
the dentist looked at my teeth and shook her head, "you drink coffee, don't you?" she clucked. "that's why your teeth are a shade 3.5. with britesmile we could bring you back up to an almost perfect 1.5."
i looked at her in horror. "i can get a near-perfect dazzling smile, but i'd have to give up coffee forever?" shivers ran down my spine and my toe nail polish nearly cracked from terror.
"oh no," she said. "we new yorkers will never give up our coffee. that's too much to expect." "then how does the treatment last for more than a couple of months?" i asked.
"well," she leaned in conspiratorially to divulge the secret,"drink all your coffee through a straw. that way it hits the back of your teeth and the front stays so beautiful. . ."
through a straw! that's thinking outta the box, kiddies!
as everyone knows, to reach the summit of espresso, you must climb the hard cliff of finetuning your barista skills. unless you have a US$2,000 superautomatic-grinder-built-in espresso machine with frother, you're going to have to learn to grind, tamp, and time your shots. then you have to practice make micro-frothed milk.
seems difficult, no? after all, those kids working full-time at the famous chains often can't seem to learn these skills.
if you're thinking about getting a home espresso machine, but are afraid of the learning curve, let me direct you to the ultimate source -- david schomer's espresso coffee: professional techniques. this is the book you need to learn how to make the best coffee you'll get outside of europe.
check out the archives on the lucid cafe site; just a few pages from their archive will convince you that this is the book you need for better coffee!
Thursday, August 02, 2001
today i've received a letter about a major topic of this site, pizza. isn't pizza wonderful? i've spent years making fancy french and more recently italian breads. but at the end of the day, pizza is just the best thing. americans eat 11 billion slices of pizza a year, according to an industry publication.
and on average, we eat pizza every third day. to which i say, amen! but of course i'm not endorsing the questionable chain pizzas that serve soy-based "cheese" basted with cheap oil and dotted with small specks of green somethings that purport to be herbs. we won't even consider other horrors, like the low-grade stuff that's supposedly italian sausage or pepperoni. i'm discussing the more flavorful and healthy pizza you can make at home with fresh, premium ingredients!
my correspondent noted the difficulty in rolling out pizza dough. usually, with my recipe, you wait until the dough is well-risen and so it rolls out with ease. however, sometimes you're in a hurry and you can't wait the dough to rise the full 5 or so hours. maybe you're using a different recipe than mine because your family favors a different crust texture. the high levels of gluten preferred by all bakers for good, chewy pizza dough can make it springy. when you try to roll it out, it snaps back like elastic. you laboriously roll it out to 12 inches, only to lift your rolling pin and see it instantly shrink back to 9 inches!
to your rescue cometh the wonderful and renowned baker, lora brody. she has an excellent, all-natural product that will relax your pizza dough and make it roll out immediately. it's made of dried milk, malt, vitamin c, canola oil, and a pinch of baking powder. not only do these ingredients make the dough much easier to handle, but the malt and vitamin c are good for yeast, helping them to grow faster and better.
i must tell you however that using this product will make your pizza dough slightly less chewy. so if your family loves ultra-chewy thick crusts, you may have to resign yourself to wrestling with the dough. . .
Wednesday, August 01, 2001
what a great day for iced coffee! a lot of people love their coffee and are concerned about how to serve it. it's true -- handsome cappucino, espresso, and coffee cups are hard to find. after working to make the very best coffee you can, you want to present it with some flair!
let me point out two well-known italian makers of coffee service. the first, frabosk, is a reputable italian maker that creates lovely stainless steel cups for a stylish, high-tech feel. they also have some really cute little french press and neapolitan coffeemakers in unusual colors.
another maker is d'ancap. they not only have a wide variety of coffee porcelain painted in whimsical colors and illustrated designs, they also make hilarious "old-fashioned" home espresso makers of brass with the big eagle on top and everything! the coffee porcelain comes in matching sets -- a stovetop moka pot, a tea pot, various cups, and saucers. so you can outfit yourself as you choose.
Tuesday, July 31, 2001
i want to devote today to thanking all of you who stop by. it's the last day of july, and i was thrilled to see that this month the site had just under 5,500 hits. it's not a number anywhere near that approaching a "major" site, but seems plenty for a little personal site like this one.
such success in only the third month -- with all archive, server, and search engine problems we've had -- makes me so happy. i'm glad that you all enjoy this site, staying an average of more than 4 minutes, and returning on average 3 times in a month. i want to thank you all again.
i do look at the server logs to see the number of hits each day, in an attempt to understand whether you'd like more yoga, more pizza, more chocolate. . .more ???? and i really can't figure it out! of course it seems random -- some people are regular visitors, who drop by as they have time; others come once after seeing the site on a search engine or blog update page.
whether regular, intrigued first-timer, or bored surfer, i welcome you all. especially i encourage you to keep on writing so i can improve the blog and communicate with you more effectively. it's amazing what an email can do!
for example, a very nice person interested in integral yoga wrote me the other day; we got to chatting via email only to discover that she been interested for a while in the teacher i was taking private lessons from, nancy lanasa! so i could help her make that connection, giving her nancy's URL at emerald coast yoga and the email address!
whatever your interest is -- coffee? chocolate? -- i hope to be able to do the same for you. show you something you'd like to know, if you'd only heard about it.
likewise, if you know something, i'd like to know, drop me the URL. and thanks again! we'll all start august tomorrow together. those truly hot august days that are coming tell me we will need to focus more on cool coffee and chocolate desserts. . .
Monday, July 30, 2001
there's no doubt: swiss chard is much preferable to spinach in the chicago deep dish pizza.
even if you lightly steam the spinach only until it slightly wilts, you're still going to get the bitter nasties. green swiss chard, however, is naturally sweeter. i'd say buy 3-1/2 lbs. of fresh chard and go for it! you might want to increase the total amount of cheese from 12 to 14 oz, since you're working with slightly more filling. even after you cut off the coarse stems of the chard, i think you have less waste and somewhat more filling.
also, i can't stop reading shirley corriher's cookwise. every other page has some simple technique that dramatically solves a common cooking problem. for example, if you've made my banana cream pie, you may have found the center softened a bit overnight, so it wasn't as firm and creamy as you would have liked. she explained why this happens and what to do about it!
the egg yolks used to thicken the pastry cream that forms the center of the pie contain a substance called alpha amylase. this occurs naturally in eggs, and if not totally cooked out of the egg yolks will eat away at the structure of the pastry cream overnight!
again, this book is a must have for everyone who cooks.
Sunday, July 29, 2001
took a fantastic yoga class today! normally, if i went to yoga on a sunday, i would have gone to my usual yoga people. but the day was so lovely with a cool breeze, i decided to make another chicago deep dish pizza! and to get fresh mozzarella on a sunday here, i have to walk over to cobble hill.
but since i was going to cobble hill, why not check out the yoga at the energy center? their schedule on the internet had a beginner and an intermediate class both at 11:30am, a perfect time for my plans.
so i loaded up my transformer yoga mat and trekked off. the energy center has a sort of little garden in front, so i wandered in only to discover that in the summer the intermediate class isn't happening. i wondered how beginner the beginner class was, so i asked the nice girl at the front desk, who suggested i speak to the teacher, frank. so i did. and we had a nice chat. i liked frank right away -- he's an excellent listener and answers in a confidence-building kinda way -- and besides, you can learn something from any yoga class, as i found in my expedition to iyengar.
he does teach a flow-based class, but the order of the poses was a little different than i was used to, which was interesting. instead of doing shoulderstands and inversions toward the end of class, to close with fish and shavasana, he did them in the middle. (is this a hallmark of kriya yoga?) back bending and forward bends came toward the end instead.
i must say he gave excellent alignment instructions, very clear, and made a wonderful adjustment in seated forward fold that was amazing. he came by and gave my thighs a little turn -- whoosh! i just slid forward, chin beyond the knees for the first time, with one hand clasping the other beyond the feet. it was comfy; i felt like i could have stayed there all day! and that was incredible, since i usually find this pose very difficult and fidgety.
also, he was kind enough to help with my headstand balance. i have tried several times to teach myself headstand away from the wall, always with poor results. usually i end up flipping over backward on top of someone! so let's say i have some concern about headstand. however, i did manage to balance for a few seconds on my own, away from the wall, halfway up with my knees in a good position. i'm not exactly sure what the adjustment he did to achieve that was, but it certainly buoyed my confidence.
the energy center has a pleasant, airy practice room with cushy blue carpet, a long shelf with devotional buddhist objects and an overall sense of casual calm. at the end of yoga, frank lead a short bit of what seemed to me to be vipassana-inspired meditation.
all in all, an excellent class, one i would highly recommend! i practically flew up atlantic avenue to pick up the swiss chard, cheese, and tomatoes i needed for the deep dish pizza. speaking of which -- whoops! time to deflate the rising dough! although i haven't baked the pie, just from tasting the filling i can say that the swiss chard is a sweeter-taste, less bitter filling. i think the pizza will be superb.