Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Little Bosnia, St. Louis

While visiting my family in St. Louis I had the opportunity to explore the many bakeries, restaurants and cafes of Little Bosnia. I wrote about that neighborhood's culinary offerings for Smithsonian.com, and you can read the story and see the pics here:


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Friday, April 8, 2011

The Power of Omission

The infamous marriage of surf and turf is best known by chewy steaks and gummy lobster tails, but recently I was struck by the magic of a lesser known amphibious union: anchovies and mushrooms.

Elise made these anchovy and 'shroom flatbreads for dinner the other night, and we were amazed at the winning combination of the salty fish and earthy fungi. But what really stood out about this meal was what we didn't put into it: sauce and cheese.

These were not pizzas, though they easily could have been, and thank goodness they were not. Even under excellent tomatoes and ideal mozzarella, the strong flavors of the chief ingredients would not have shone through.

This was one of those rare instances when I didn't want balance. I was prepared with a lemon wedge, but it went into my water instead. These were fishy and mushroomy -- in a good way -- and I wanted nothing more. As I've said before, without the cheese, there's nowhere to hide.

Improving recipes usually means adding a little more of this or that, but as MB's illustrious career as The Minimalist has shown, sometimes scissors are better than glue. This approach is known by many names, such as ingredient based cooking and common sense.

As I write this I'm reminded of a throng of other dishes that are better with fewer bells and whistles (who wants to eat bells and whistles anyway? goats?), and this is more true the better your ingredients are.

I used to make gazpacho with pretty much any supermarket vegetable I hoped to wring some flavor from: tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, chiles, scallions and red onions, along with herbs, spices, lime juice and vinegar. Then one day I whipped up a batch with juicy, sun-ripened golden tomatoes and just a bit of raw onion. I drizzled a touch of syrupy balsamic vinegar and sprinkled in a couple of Marcona almonds and that was it. It was the best gazpacho I'd ever made, or had for that matter.

What are some of your favorite omissions?

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On Endangered Foods

Here's a taste of my first post on the Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire blog.

"Saving endangered foods might sound like the punch line to a joke about arugula-loving bleeding heart liberals, but RAFT connects such foods with the power to reduce carbon footprints, unite communities, better our health and preserve distinct, regional cultures."

For the rest, see here:


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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Quote of the Day

Reading Gathering the Desert by Gary Paul Nabhan is making me very excited for my upcoming trip to AZ. The book also reminds me of my 9th grade Environmental Studies project on the many uses of agave (food, drink, needle and thread). It was my first taste of ethnobotany, opening my mind to the relationships between people and plants. And I got an A+! (Thanks, Ms. Coyle.)

From Gathering the Desert:

"Choose a moonlit night in the summer, and hike through the scattering of agaves in bloom. Hike past them, into the canyons of the Tortolitas where little caves lie hidden. Listen for the flutter of wings, watch for the bats, their shoulders cloaked in a coat of pollen, shining in the night like a poncho made of Precolumbian golden thread. Follow them back down to the scent of agave blossoms, where plants and animals again dance to an ancient American rhythm."

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Tea and Food Turns 700

As the snow fell earlier this morning, I made this buckwheat pancake using MB's whole grain pancake recipe, though without the sugar and spice and with 1/3 the fat (still delicious). That's right, I minimized The Minimalist.

I was fortunate enough to have locally grown buckwheat flour from the last installment of our winter CSA, and the flecks of hull added a pleasant bit of chew to the otherwise fluffy and spongy pancakes. Gently folded-in, stiffly beaten egg whites truly are the secret weapon for lofty, whole grain pancakes.

As usual, I ended up making one enormous pancake as big as my face in addition to several smaller ones. Topped with steamed apples and savored alongside a mason jar of gunpowder green, this was a celebratory pancake. Because as soon as I click "publish post," Tea and Food will have reached its 700th post. And what better way to celebrate 700 posts on tea and food than with a little food and tea?

It all started as a pet project between myself and my good friend Dave, and by "it all started" I mean Dave started it. We were obsessively discussing everything we were eating and gabbing like a couple of (old, hairy) schoolgirls about the latest Bittman videos. We would even try out the same recipes together in real time over the phone, emailing photos as we went. Dave pointed out that we were basically food blogging without a food blog, so he created us a food blog. 700 posts later, here we are.

At the time I was a traveling sketch comic and Dave was a grad student. He is now a Doctor of Philosophy and teaches at an esteemed university, and I don't live out of a van anymore!

Which brings me to my second cause for celebration: my first article for Smithsonian, on Boston's farm to table renaissance, which you can see here. You can also check out the photo gallery for additional shots.

So congrats to everyone whose enthusiasm has propelled this blog forward over the years. Now go make yourself a pancake.

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