Saturday, September 21, 2002
ok, ok: i was wrong about christopher hildebrandt. he's a good yoga teacher; maybe it wasn't him, it was the ashtanga. i just have to face facts: i make one grumpy ashtangi. . .
why have i radically revised my opinion of hildebrandt? pizza, of course. no seriously! because i want to make pizza tomorrow, it's hard to go to the early evening yoga class i usually do on sundays. this meant that i really had to take a class today. but honestly -- i can't bear to leave the house before noon on a weekend. my best yoga option at yoga people was hildebrandt's new 4pm vinyasa class. so i steeled myself, showed up, and got quite a pleasant surprise.
hildebrandt taught a wonderful yoga class, both relaxing and invigorating. he started with a 5-minute seated meditation, and then moved on to a relaxing and delightful pranayama practice with bolsters. from there, the class spent 45 minutes in simple -- but not easy -- vinyasas and action work, worthy of mark whitwell himself.
we did vinyasas like moving from dandasana (staff pose) to table top and back again. also moving from down dog to up dog, from kneeling to camel pose prep, and some basic leg lifting. in between these we would stop for a few comic lion poses in samastitihi (steady standing pose). it was actually quite difficult toward the end. then he counted out the sun salutations, both a and b, 12 times a side. that's right -- sun salutations toward the end; an unusual but interesting sequence. . .
finally we ended with some partner stretching, which was frankly fun. usually, partner work is kind of awkward and embarrassing -- who is this person and why am i grabbing their sweaty bod? but hildebrandt seemed much less tightly wound than in the ashtanga work i'd done with him, and so we all could relax. finally we collapsed back to the bolsters.
now here i am, eating my own bytes -- i take it all back. go try hildebrandt's open vinyasa class.
Friday, September 20, 2002
chocolate is a health food!
long-time readers know this already. but here's a nice general summary of some of the proven health benefits of chocolate. it mentions a study i'd somehow missed that reported how eating 100 grams (about 3.5 oz.) of premium dark chocolate a day might reduce the risk of blood clots, which can lead to stroke.
there's also an interesting discussion of a study out just this month on atypical depression and how people with this disease of develop cravings for chocolate. very interesting!
Thursday, September 19, 2002
yes it's true: this coming weekend italians will hold a nationwide strike against pizza. part of a larger protest of what the italians perceive to be unjustified price increases as the nation implements the euro, organizers also are urging their compatriots to avoid pasta for the day. sounds like it'll be risotto and polenta for dinner there on saturday!
and while we're at it, here's a nice article on the state of america's pizza and the vpn. i'm surprised that the author doesn't understand why more upscale eateries aren't hopping on the verace bandwagon: it's because most americans wouldn't like the pizza. the pies decreed by the association are delicious, light, and healthy. they bear little resemblance to the soy-cheese-laden grease monsters americans have delivered in 30 minutes or less.
if you're curious, you can make a wonderful verace-style pie at home quite easily. you'll need a red sauce with wine, too. the techniques are simple; the ingredients, cheap; the results, delectable. those 30-minute or less pies aren't. now that i think about it , why don't we in the u.s.a have a pizza price strike of our own?
Wednesday, September 18, 2002
chocolate from coast to coast. . .
double whammy for ya on the chocolate front: a great article -- i say this because it agrees with me -- in the washington post on tasting chocolate concludes that el rey gran saman and valrhona manjari are the best eating chocolates. tho' actually i have a soft spot in my heart also for the el rey mijao.
and i've been saving this link for a long time, waiting on cooler weather, when it's safer to mail-order chocolate. because i think it's just horrible to give links to great chocolate only to say, "drat! it's july -- the chocolate will be ruined in shipping!"
but now it's fairly safe to order, so here's the precious link to an awesome survey of bay area chocolatiers. most of these have been mentioned here before, like recchiuti . . .
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
nestle catches a clue & pizza for charity
long-time readers know that here at bccy we are big fans of independent, local business, and that we feel too often multi-national giants are overly focused on the bottom line to the detriment of the product, the consumer, the workers, and the environment. we prefer foodstuffs that are locally grown in a sustainable manner and made with care by artisan producers.
this is the main reason we have been so critical of the behavior of multi-national coffee sellers, those huge firms like kraft and proctor & gamble that own the supermarket brands of coffee with which americans are most familiar. during the current coffee crisis, the world price-depression that has left coffee growers near bankrupt and coffee workers in latin america literally starving to death, the astute reader will notice how prices of that supermarket coffee haven't fallen. actually, they've risen slightly.
and it's no secret that these large firms have been lowering the quality of coffee in those supermarket brands. for the past 2 years the parent corporations of the large coffee brands have ignored or resisted entreaties to do something to help those being ground fine by the vicissitudes of the world coffee market and have continued to pad their profits by buying ever-lower quality beans at ever-cheaper prices.
let's face it -- the most famous brands just don't taste as good as they used to! this has led many americans to give up coffee for sugary soft drinks or driven them to starbucks for too-sweet coffee drinks topped with large amounts of whipped cream. these parent firms almost didn't seem to care that they were destroying their own consumer base to prop up their stock prices in the short term. and by failing to take action to help producers of higher-quality coffee survive, they were ensuring the permanent decline of their product.
yesterday nestor ostorio of the ico, a coffee trade group, said it like it is: "multi-nationals are doing themselves no favors by profiting from the low prices. . .consumers will turn to alternative drinks if manufacturers continue to substitute low-grade beans."
so here we are now. i almost hate to do it, but in all fairness, i have to -- i'm going to praise nestle for finally coming out and saying that something has to be done to restore stability to the coffee situation. nestle appears to get it, with a reluctant statement: "it is in everybody's interest that there should be a better balance between supply and demand."
even if it is only a public relations announcement to try to spin the release of a critical oxfam report, nestle's taking a step in the right direction. when will the other large firms do the same?
and while i'm spreading the praise, i wanna heap some on the the transit authority of toronto, canada. to raise funds for charity, transit workers are hawking fresh pizza slices at selected subway stops. what a great idea -- thinking out of the box, so to speak. . .
Monday, September 16, 2002
farro & cemoi
and a big thanks to bruce of sautewednesday! not only did he remind me that the zuni cafe cookbook is out already, he also mentioned that he's read it and it's fabulous.
but then, back to the real subject of our convo, the awesome kunh rikon pressure cooker: bruce also knows how to make farro risotto in it, which is a must in my book. i look forward to adapting an old recipe i used to make with farro in the new cooker -- farro with leeks, fresh porcini, and sundried tomatos. the farro should come out chewy, like wild rice. . .after that, in honor of the zuni, i think i'll tackle the braised chicken and figs, which ought to be an easy 30-minute-party in the kuhn rikon. let's hope the fresh fig supply on atlantic avenue holds out for another week!
and in a great celebration of the rebirth of downtown new york after 9-11, a relocated amish market opened at john and william st (or walk up thru the zeytun's restaurant on maiden lane). naturally i had to rush in and buy a bar of 72% cemoi premier cru dark chocolate with 4% colombian coffee from their large premium chocolate selection. heavenly!
Sunday, September 15, 2002
while perhaps a little outside my purview, i have to take a minute today to enthuse in the most uncool way about the pressure cooker. that's right, after reading too many italian cooking and living magazine spreads, i finally was seduced by the siren call of kuhn rikon. yes, i know -- the pressure cooker fad of 2 years ago is so over.
once the sleek 5 liter hotel pan arrived at my doorstep from ikitchen2000.com (best price i could find on the net that week), i wondered immediately what to make in it. chocolate cheesecake? chocolate bread pudding? pots au chocolat? turkey mole? i turned to mr. right and asked, "well, what should i make now?" and to my utter astonishment he replied, "gumbo."
obviously, dear readers, this is way outside my normal range. i was thunderstruck. i have never made a gumbo in life. "what kind?" "i like shrimp, and chicken and andouille," he said nonchalantly. "with okra." thus the challenge was on.
where to find a decent, authentic gumbo recipe for the pressure cooker? the actual pot had arrived ahead of the cookbook i had ordered for it. "i wonder where i could get a recipe i could trust. . ." "emeril," he answered blithely. long time readers know that i loathe all celebrity chefs, with a special shiver in my veins for martha and emeril. and mr. right knows that as well.
but hey, i'm game. so i hopped over to emeril's website and dug up a recipe for chicken and andouille gumbo, based on a big dark roux. the shrimp is easy enough to toss in at the last minute so it doesn't overcook, right? after some soul-searching tho', we decided that we really weren't sure exactly where to find fresh okra here at this time of year, so we ditched that. we headed to brooklyn's atlantic avenue to acquire all the materials and the spices and herbs.
but nowhere could we find the crucial file, or sassafras powder. as i ducked into local fish store/fry shack la petite crevette, mr. right asked the owner if he knew where we could acquire some file. "why, i'll give you some," he said immediately. and so he did. a nice 2 or 3 tablespoons worth -- just what i would need, and wouldn't take a dime for it. that's brooklyn for you!
as for the gumbo -- well, normally it's an all day recipe. i mean, like 6 hours, with prep and cook. in the pressure cooker, actual cooking time was about 40 minutes total, after i had made the necessary alterations to emeril's recipe. and it emerged just as if it had in fact been simmering for 4 hours in a big cast iron pot. "this is the best gumbo i've ever had," mr. right said in his most heart-felt manner as he spooned rice and gravy into his mouth. "oh yeah," i replied. i love this damn kuhn rikon so much i could cry hot coffee. . .
by the way, when making this recipe, i must point out that you do still have to stir the roux for 40 minutes until it's as dark as 70% chocolate. roasting 1 cup of flour in 1 cup of oil takes some time. but the results! with that amount of oil, you know it tastes so good -- but thank heavens it speeds up from there. . .
the biggest downside is that the gumbo aroma penetrates your house and won't leave for about 2 days, by which time you will have managed to eat only about half of emeril's recipe. serves 4 on what planet? try serves 10!