Family Styles A lazy susan of recipes, food porn, thoughts on sustainable eating, and other tasty tidbits of information revolving between sisters. Wed, 08 Dec 2010 17:25:51 +0000 en hourly 1 Eatin’ Outta Cups: eggplant bruschetta in toasted parmesan vessels Wed, 08 Dec 2010 17:25:51 +0000 irene When we put together a 10-course menu for Tom and Elise’s housewarming party, we resolved to photograph at least one of them from start to finish:

white purple

smitten kitchen

It feels good to be on top.

We got our eggplants from Mandeville’s farm stand, our recipe from smittenkitchen, and the parmesan cup idea from a combination of Tommy, Max’s uncle, and the firm belief that you can always have more cheese.

We sliced eggplant.

We put it in a bowl.


We roasted it and put it back in the bowl with scallions, cilantro, feta, shallots, and red wine vinegar.

We baked spread-out tablespoons (or maybe 2 tbs?) of parmesan until they were golden brown.

We used mini-muffin tins and teeny cups to mold the parmesan into vessel-shape. We had to work fast before the parmesan hardened! Incidentally, there must be a better way to do this. We just didn’t figure it out.

We filled the cups!

And, as a bonus, one (bad) photo of our completely home-made pork buns (pickled red onion and cucumber, slow, red-cooked pork shoulder, momofuku-recipe buns):

Just wanted to let you kids know what we’ve been up to.

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A Magical Summer of Food Porn: The Photo Album Fri, 27 Aug 2010 15:01:52 +0000 admin Did you miss me? I know, it’s been a while since any posting has been done. I’ve been busy.

Very busy.

Busy eating, obviously.

Here’s a recap with absolutely no worthwhile information but lots of quality food porn from Germany to Glasgow to London to LA to  a secret little garden party in the country.

We’ll start with the phenomenal brunch platters in Berlin, which should be available at all brunching locales around the world.

Same goes for the street markets with fabulous bread and pretzels…

beautifully constructed goat cheese balls with honey and dijon and pink peppercorns…

and not to be forgotten, an enormous hungry Pac-Man masquerading as an orange juice stand.

From Berlin, we travel back in time to an early summer visit to the south of France, complete with trips to the famous weekend markets of Sarlat, famous for foie gras…

and of course, cheese. No visit to France would be complete without serious cheese gorging. And if you get really lucky (by which I mean live through a near-death experience of renting a charming little cottage directly under a gargantuan cliff in imminent danger of falling so your village gets evacuated and your rental agent pulls some strings to have you moved to an honest-to-God baron’s house with a pool, tennis court and caretakers) then you can eat your market cheese in the ‘outdoor lunching’ area below rather than the ‘outdoor dinner’ area.

Apparently, barons must have a different locale for each dining experience, accurately calibrated for the particular time of day and position of sun and attractiveness of view. Speaking of barons, the Rambling Restaurant crew served a feast fit for kings at the Secret Garden Party based on a medieval menu of choches, pottage, and and buttered wortes on trenchers.

Our kings and queens gnawed through a pit-roasted wild boar, encased for hours in a hole with hot rocks and cabbage thanks to the hard work and strong arms of people like Nick, Alice, Sid…

and displayed here by the lovely Liane.

The following picture epitomizes every surreal, magical, dirty, glittery, messy, bizarre, dancey, amazing  moment of this secret party in the countryside.

IreneBean and I also got to enjoy some pop-up coffee perfection at Penny University, the short-term cafe creation of everyone’s favourite world barista champion, Gwilym, and the folks making the magic at Square Mile.

Sipping our way through their coffee tasting menu was like being fed mysterious potions expertly crafted by a mad scientist with bubbles and burners and tubes and quite possibly a magic wand.  Bean is also quite sure we were sitting next to Kiera Knightley.

I got to spend more time with the fam in LA for my cousin Evelyn’s wedding. We tore our way through some of the best restaurants in LA thanks to Yelp! and my friend Marc’s spot-on recommendations (he also makes a mean New England Crab Roll with homemade potato chips).  We had some spectacular dishes at Animal including oxtail poutine, foie gras on a biscuit with maple sausage gravy, ‘buffalo style’ pigs tails, marrow bone with chimichurri, lamb sweetbreads, and the beautiful barbecue pork belly brioche sliders as shown in all their orgasm-inducing glory by Kel.

A close-up to see these melt-in-your-mouth things of beauty in all their magical perfection, along with some kickass slide-off-the-bone ribs.

And some amazing speck and sunnyside up egg breakfast pizza, stuffed into my mouth along with wild boar bacon, some mystifyingly good golden crunchy fried potatoes and mushroom eggs benedict with fennel pollen hollandaise, consumed with big brother and food enjoyment enabler Andy.

Lest you think my summer’s been all baron’s houses, feasts for kings, and secret laboratories, we’ll end with some exciting shots of the most magnificent destination of them all….the SCOTTISH CHIPPIE. Home of chips, cheese and gravy (aka disco chips). That little blob of brown nastiness at the bottom just makes it all more delicious.

How can something so horrifying taste so good? And then, after you’ve eaten a whole box, taste so bad? It only gets better when placed on top of one of Scotland’s greatest treasures…the deep fried and battered pizza. Oh, the glory of pizza crunch.

Forget houses of aristocracy and secret parties and coffee contraptions. That’s magic, right there.

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J’adore Paris. I eat Paris. Fri, 16 Jul 2010 14:52:22 +0000 mei In true FamilyStyles fashion, these next few posts are dedicated to our mom, an amazing person and one of the reasons that Irene and I place such an importance on good food and family.  We  did  some traveling around Paris and  Southwest France last month to visit friends, a trip which happened to come soon after reading My Life in France by Julia Child.  After consuming tales of Parisian markets and laborious and decadent French meals, my mother was inspired,  bien sur, to do her own search for some serious French food. As the lucky daughter already on the same side of the Atlantic Ocean, I joined her for an epicurean tour of La Belle France and her wealth of gastronomic delights.

From simple picnics of bread and cheese on park benches to Michelin-lauded establishments of the culinary elite, my mother and I ate our way across both the city and the countryside. Through well-laid plans as well as happy coincidences, our meals were shared with old friends from all over the world either living in Paris or happening to travel through the region at the same time.

One of the amazing things about Paris is how easy it is to find incredible food on every corner, from boulangeries to patisseries to shops teeming with foie gras or artisan chocolates.  We started one day at Sainte-Chappelle on Ile de la Cite, a popular tourist destination that was completely worth the wait…

and then proceeded to visit another the spectacular sight of Paris – the fromagerie.

This shop, on Ile-St-Louis, featured a front window display teeming with chevre of all shapes and sizes.  Some looked like moldy grey logs, others like newly hatched dinosaur eggs, others like petrified stones or lumpy balls of grout scraped off your shower tiles.  But the inside…smooth and creamy and bursting with earthy, grassy flavour.

That’s some French chevre, up close and personal. Best to be eaten in a small park behind Notre Dame with some paté from the bucherie, a fresh baguette from the boulangerie, and rhubarb nectar from the gourmet shop round the corner.

Our massive picnic on the Seine unfortunately left us too full to sample the wares of the street market behind the Hotel de Ville. But next time I’m definitely going back for these potatoes, which are probably fried in goose fat or sausage lard or something equally naughty and French.

To contrast with the steaming hot, oil-splattering grease bombs above were gorgeously speckled beans…

…thick stalks of white asparagus and tiny bitty shoots of what I think is wild baby asparagus on the right, like something you’d find in a field and mistake for a weed rather than a perfect little bite of springtime.

I was curious as to how it would taste, and was lucky enough to get a chance to eat some later that evening, at one of the best meals of my life…

More France to come!

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Rambling Restaurant at The Secret Garden Party Wed, 23 Jun 2010 09:08:58 +0000 admin

I am SO excited.

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Amazing Views and Serious Market Adventures in Athens Sun, 13 Jun 2010 17:34:40 +0000 mei

Only in Athens can you have your moussaka with a colorful rainbow-bright salad of shiny purple olives, green peppers, and red tomatoes,  a side plate of olive oil and herb-dusted grilled bread and an accompanying view of the Parthenon.

You can also visit one of the most hardcore, badass, no-yuppie-bullsh*t central markets I’ve ever had the pleasure (and underlying sense of intimidation) of wandering through. This ain’t no Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid , lushly teeming with expensive port and tapas with caviar and design nerd tea towels.  This is a serial killer basement of unidentified animal dismemberment. If you’re squeamish, I’d just stop right now…

Okay. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. And I’m doing it again.

Now, imagine your local butcher shop (which may not exist as a concept if you live in the States) and multiply it by about fifty. Then fill it with dozens of men in bloody aprons carrying brutishly large knives who all will approach you as you walk through (admittedly, somewhat unprepared in a tank top and short-ish skirt) and very loudly proclaim in Greek and broken English and attempted Chinese that they very much want to…be your friend. Or something like that. Unfortunately, I  don’t speak Greek.

It was a serious gauntlet of dead animal parts and aggressively friendly butchers.  Here’s what it looked like.

It’s obviously not the kind of market where you go to, say, buy a snack.  Unless you like eating…what are these, dinosaur heads?

Sorry.  I tried to warn you. I have absolutely no idea what animal those came from.  It was as far away from sanitized, styrofoam-and-plastic-wrapped, this-only-differs-from-a-steak-in-that-it-needs-a-few-minutes-on-the-grill, supermarket meat as I’ve ever been.  You can’t pretend that these don’t come from an animal when the entire skinned body is hanging in front of you.

A few of the stalls appeared to exist only in order to showcase the parts of the animal you never knew existed.  The parts that really should remain hidden inside a body cavity and never viewed by anyone except a trained professional. I’m partially fascinated to know if these items can ever be transformed through the magic of cooking into something fantastically delicious, and partially quite sure I never want anything of that texture to get anywhere near my mouth.

I wonder what this little girl is thinking about the enormous buckets of animal intestines in front of her.

After extricating myself from the clutches of several enthusiastically chatty men wielding cleavers…

I made my way into the seafood section. It felt like wandering into a black market aquarium back room, with  seawater an inch deep sloshing over my sandals.  You could buy just about every conceivable fish, ranging from the smallest of sea creatures…

to what might possibly be some sort of bisected shark body.

The beast above looked much bigger in person than it does in the photo. It was most assuredly the largest diameter of fish body I have personally ever seen for sale in one piece.

You could also purchase nearly every possible variation of bottom-dwelling crustacean, mollusk, or bivalve…

small fresh fish, I think sardines, by the shovelful…

…and what looked to be their delicious cured counterparts packed in salt.

Since I was flying back to London that evening and didn’t want to be seen as:

A) a crazy person bringing raw fish on a plane by my thoroughly disgusted fellow passengers, or

B) an absolute psychopath by a poor airport employee encountering a severed and skinned animal head during a routine security check

I refrained from purchasing anything in the main section of the market.

I did, however, continue to wander around the outskirts in search of exciting Greek edibles and more snack-friendly fare and found a few tiny little storefronts full of herbs and nuts and dried fruit. I bought almonds and figs and honey and tasted dried cherries from a nice elderly Greek couple.

I love the endless displays of dried, harvested, cured, and otherwise well-preserved food…

huge vats of raisins and enormous boxes of nuts of all varieties…

and a great wall of herbs and spices of all colors.

We’ll end with my favorite daily snack of my altogether too short trip to Athens: the ubiquitous seeded circle of bready deliciousness, available on nearly every street corner of the city.

Okay, actually, we have to end by coming back to where we started. From far off in the distance with a table of Greek food or up close and personal under the construction scaffolding, the Parthenon is an incredible sight…

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Pastravaganza, and other Portmanteaux: A recipe for basic pasta dough, and a non-recipe for the craziest ravioli you’ve ever had Thu, 03 Jun 2010 17:10:29 +0000 irene In the midst of our insane winter solstice kitchen-fest, we performed the questionable American tradition of watching TV as a family and tuned into the Food Network’s Iron Chef America: Super Chef Battle White House. A lot of great stuff happened on the show (Michelle Obama’s numerous references to sweet potatoes in combination with her sweet-potato colored dress, Alton Brown’s almost-excessive-but-sort-of-really-great dramatism, etc). The greatest thing for me, though, was the beautiful, orgasmic looking and sounding uova di raviolo – a raviolo with an egg inside -which Mario Batali stuffed with ricotta and spinach and characteristically covered with an absurd amount of shaved truffle.

You might argue that he does a lot of things that are absurd. Especially if you are his son, who is obviously responding to his own probably forcibly donned gem-studded crocs with a classic pose for the camera: palm to forehead accompanied with expression of serious psychic pain.

But I digress. There are few things that are not improved with a fried egg with an oozy, slightly runny, richly yellow yolk. I just never thought that thing would be pasta. It was an “I didn’t know you could do that!” sort of moment. Sort of like a lot of feminist theory. Too far? Okay. I digress again, obviously.

We didn’t have a pasta roller (we have since acquired one), but we did have a lot of bicep power between the three of us (Baniel, Captain Tinyfeet, and Beanpie), so with the guiding light of Mario Batali shining upon us and our almost embarrassingly low level of experience, we started to make pasta. We also turned to Alice Waters and Alton Brown for support, and learned that we were to use semolina flour (which comes from durum wheat and is higher in protein) for a better, yellower, more beautiful and pliable dough. Some people just use AP flour, and some use a mix, but we got semolina flour at Weggie World, so we decided to go for it. We didn’t have a recipe guiding us, so we played it by ear.

We experienced failure – heartbreaking, I-guess-we-just-won’t-eat-any-dinner-because-we-don’t-deserve-it failure. But we learned from our mistakes. And also Skyped with Amin, who had actually read Alice Waters’ guide to making pasta dough. And we did way better the next time.

Our improvised pasta dough recipe and a guide to uova di raviolo after the jump. You don’t need a roller, but if you need your arms the two days after, you might want one.

Our Basic Pasta Dough Recipe: Our basic pasta recipe is as follows – and keep in mind that we consulted few experts other than engineering student extraordinaire Amin Younes while we were putting this particular part of our recipe together.

Make a volcano on the table with 3 cups of semolina flour (or a well in a bowl – see Serious Eats for what that looks like) and fill the middle with 4 egg yolks.

Why egg yolks, and not just whole eggs? Max should probably weigh in on this in terms of the properties of egg yolks as opposed to whites, but as far as I’m concerned, why have less cholesterol when you could have more?

Right? As a side note, my new favorite way to separate yolks from whites is just to crack all the eggs into a bowl, and then scoop out the yolks with my hands, one a a time, passing them from hand to hand – it’s easier on the yolks, and fun to do. Just make sure your hands are clean if you have plans for meringues or egg white omelettes. Erm… probably your hands should be clean regardless, actually.

Where were we? Oh, yeah, yolks. Four of them. If you’re not convinced, you could probably also use 2 eggs instead. Add a sploosh (maybe 2 TBS) of olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt to the center of the volcano, and then work the liquid into the flour starting from the middle of the volcano so it doesn’t spill all over the table. Mix with your hands!

Once the liquid is incorporated, continue to knead and gradually add water, about 1 cup in all, while you’re kneading. Keep going. Is the color pretty consistent? Is the dough past crumbly, but before sticky? You’re done adding water. Knead until you’ve worked the dough for about 15 minutes. I usually stop when it looks something like this, or maybe a few kneads after.

Then, we tightly wrap the dough in saran wrap, and rest for 45 minutes. Don’t know why. I’ll let you know if I find out. After that, it’s ready to use – roll it out by hand, or with a roller. Experiment with fillings – go crazy! We’ve tried spaghetti (or at least, thin, circular strands of pasta), ravioli, and tortellini and have gone rogue with probably half a dozen different cheeses, three bean salad, grilled fish, pork belly, celeriac puree, and a few other items.

Though Food Lab research on how to cook pasta is kicking Alton Brown’s skinny ass all over the place in terms of water requirements (how hot and how much), his and probably your grandmother’s wisdom about at least a gallon of water, salted and boiling for pasta (for about 4 people) is still legit when it comes to pasta that’s fresh.

A Guide to Uova Di Raviolo: We read over Mario Batali’s Food Network recipe for this culinary gem, but took a lot of creative license with it, and you should too! Here’s our basic guide for about 4 raviolos.

Roll out enough pasta dough so that you can cut eight rounds of dough that are about 6 or 7 inches in diameter. (this should only be about 1/3 or 1/2 of the dough you made in the above recipe, if that). The rounds should be a few millimeters thick – if you’ve eaten lots of ravioli you’ll have a good sense of the thickness you want. You can do this with a rolling pin or a pasta roller, and bowls/plates are great for cutting rounds – just place your bowl upside down on the pasta and cut around the edge.

Place your rounds on a floured surface, or parchment or wax paper – just make sure they don’t stick!

Mix about 1 cup ricotta cheese with a handful of chopped, blanched spinach (just pop it into boiling water for five seconds). Another vegetable could be good here too, like pureed celeriac or shaved caramelized fennel. Season with kosher salt and white and/or black pepper to taste. Batali also adds parmesan, which we opted out of, but you could add any kind of delicious, strong cheese, really.

Your filling should be perhaps a little saltier than you want it so the flavor of the ricotta and spinach can stand up to the richness of the egg yolk and whatever sauce you put on your raviolo.

Spoon equal portions of the ricotta mixture – about 1/4-1/3 cup, if I had to guess – onto the centers of four of the pasta rounds. Then, use your finger to spread the mixture into an ring – the hole in the middle should be about an inch and a half wide – just the right size for an egg yolk and a little bit of white.

You might be tempted to pipe the mixture onto the pasta, but we’ve found that creating the ring by moving the ricotta mixture creates a good seal that holds the egg inside the ricotta ring – you don’t want egg white leaking out and ruining the sealed raviolo (this is what happened in the picture below!).

Then, place 1 egg yolk (and some white, if you wish, but not the whole thing!) in the center of each ricotta ring. We use Happy Hens chicken eggs – if you can get your hands on some eggs that are really fresh, or even some duck eggs (oooh…), you’re a badass and will be rewarded in spades. This is a good time to stick a little pat of truffle butter (or any other kind of butter, for that matter) right on top of or next to the yolk.

Then, place pasta rounds on top of each pasta-ricotta-egg unit. Use your fingers to press down right at the edge of the ricotta ring, and try not to leave too much air into the raviolo. Then, use a fork to seal the deal. You may wish to use an egg wash (egg white + water) or some other form of moisture to help seal. You may also want to trim the edges so you have a nice uniform raviolo (the upside down bowl trick works great here too).

Bring a gallon of sea-water-level salty water to a boil. This salt is realllly important! It will make your pasta absolutely heavenly. While you’re waiting, you should probably make a butter sauce – try 1 stick of butter and some fresh herbs (tarragon, thyme, whatever you have) in a saucepan over medium-low heat until it takes on a nice brown color and a delicious, nutty smell. Beurre noisette = yum.

Once you’ve got a rolling boil, very gently pick up your uova (you may want a spatula or turner) and slip it into the water. Stir it around a little to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Most fresh pastas cook in 2 or 3 minutes, but for a delicious, oozy but well warmed yolk, you should give the uova about 5 minutes of cooking.

We actually prefer 7 minutes:

The yolk is creamy, not solid, but not watery either. But we’ll let you decide how you like yours done. Spoon some beurre noisette on top, and enjoy this heavenly, decadent, delicious homemade treat. And then try to tell me there is something that can’t be improved with an egg yolk and a little truffle butter. Let us know how it goes!

]]> 10 Museums of Ham, Houses of Salt Cod, and Markets Galore in Madrid Sun, 23 May 2010 21:15:08 +0000 admin

Madrid! An amazing city of eating where the magical jamon receives the love and attention and hero worship it truly deserves.  Witness my favorite sight throughout Madrid: THE MUSEUM OF HAM.

The Museo del Jamon: a carefully curated aesthetic and historical homage to jamon and the role it has played throughout the course of human events…

Kidding.  Sadly it’s not actually a museum, but it does seem almost like a house of worship for Madrileños.

I passed by four crowded Museos del Jamon during my two days in Madrid, but of course that’s only one of many places to buy this gloriously rich, salty meatiness. You can buy it at the jamoneria at the outdoor market I happily stumbled upon, along with numerous other enticing meat products…

…so beautiful that I required a close-up.

Also to be found nearby were beautiful cheeses…

anchovies and sardines and other jarred fish…

some beautiful crusty loaves, and the most enormous chocolate covered donuts I’ve ever seen in my life.

I considered how much of a donut I could fit in my mouth in one bite, but decided instead to purchase sardines, anchovies, local olive oil, bread and chocolate to spirit back to London.  Before my flight though, I also made a pilgrimage to the gorgeous Mercado de San Miguel, a wrought iron turn-of-the-century building housing one of the oldest covered markets in the city.  

It’s a mecca for the food-obsessed and if you’re in Madrid I insist you go.  And bring me back lots of delicious stuff.

The glass-walled rectangular building consists of a grid of several rows crossed by a few avenues, each featuring a small stall at which you can purchase produce or fresh pasta or a whole fish to take home or a glass of sangria to drink or a few bites of tapas for a Euro or two each. Obviously, there is jamon

as well as enormous shrimp to be eaten with tortilla de patata and a glass of cerveza

and all types, shapes, and sizes of bread…

and rich, glossy, viscous bottles of port in which I’d like to luxuriously bathe…

and carefully crafted concoctions of olive and cheese and peppers and fish…

and mini shops of lavishly illustrated cookbooks and pretty kitchen related items that I covet…

and lest you get too exhausted or overwhelmed by all the edible options, there is a cafeteria at which you can stand around and drink from a massive bar selection and contemplate what to eat next.

And of course, there’s pulpo! You never know when you might care to purchase several small octopi for dinner.

Of course, only because I was about to get on a plane, I decided to forgo the pulpo in favor of more easily consumable seafood.  A city with museums of ham must also have houses of salted cod, so I hit up La Casa del Bacalao.

On left, Bacalao marinado con aceite virgen y eneldo (marinated in virgin olive oil and dill) and Bacalao con Caviar de Lumpo.

I had to rush off to the airport soon after, so I didn’t get to do lots of things on my list. The foremost example – eating churros con chocolate at the famous Chocolateria San Gines.

I walked by, walked in, and then…I’m almost too embarrased to say it…I was too full of jamon to eat any churros. Absolutely shameful. I’d also like to eat in this pretty restaurant…

atop the fantastic Herzog & de Meuron-designed CaixaForum, which is also a must visit if you’re in Madrid.  It’s an amazing art museum, but it’s true that I like anything involving enormous vertical gardens and an upside-down elefante.

My next trip to Madrid, I’ll make time to sit outside in the sunshine and eat on the Plaza Mayor…

where of course I can eat my fill from a well-located Museo del Jamon. Talk all you want about Madrid’s justly celebrated museums, but all you really need is a gallery of jamon

Mercado de San Miguel
Plaza de San Miguel, just west of Plaza Mayor. Just find the Plaza Mayor and go from there. Do not believe what Google Maps tells you. It is probably trying to keep all the tastiness to itself.
34 91 542 4939

Chocolatería San Ginés
Pasadizo de San Ginés, 11
91 365 65 46

Paseo del Prado, 36
91 330 73 00

Museo del Jamon
Practically everywhere in the city, thank the gods of ham.

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The Easiest Recipe Ever, or, (Insert “In a Pickle” Pun Here) Sat, 08 May 2010 18:34:23 +0000 irene Pickles are just one of those things. Salty, sweet, sting-y and sour, pickles can really transform an eating experience (or, if you’re like me, they can be an eating experience in and of themselves). So, when I learned how to make pickles, I was converted – I’ll never buy pickles again. Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t either…

I know it might seem like those three jars were the three reasons, but I have three more in case you aren’t satisfied.

First reason: making pickles is ridiculously easy. Here’s the recipe: combine 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar (also known just as rice vinegar), 5 or so TBS of sugar, 2 or so TSP of kosher salt with 1 cup very hot tap water. Stir to dissolve the solids, and pack your picklee into a mason jar or tupperware. Cover the produce with the brine, cover, and refrigerate. That’s it. I’m not kidding.

Second reason: almost any kind of produce, be it fruit or vegetable, super-fresh or a little on the old side, can be made into a delightful pickle. Trimmed, julienned, or sliced, vegetables like beets, carrots, celery, cauliflower, fennel, shiitake mushrooms and cabbage make great pickles. Fruit makes great pickles too: try cherries, or chunks of plums, pears, or watermelon.

Third reason: lots of different spices can make your pickles more distinct and complex. We’ve been thinking about coriander seeds, fennel seeds, chinese five spice, cloves, and cinnamon

The pickles will be at their height of flavor in about four days. However, you’ll probably still be amazed by their flavor when you sneak into your refrigerator later that day and try one – or just take them all out on to the porch and stuff your face like we did.

Now, I know some of you may be thinking, “Irene, this recipe has four ingredients including water AND about 3 steps: you’re asking a lot of me. Measuring spoons, refrigerators – this is far too hoity-toity for my tastes.”

That’s why there’s an even quicker, easier recipe: combine sliced cucumbers with three parts sugar and 1 part salt: for 2 cucumbers, 1 tbs sugar, 1 tsp salt. Toss and let them sit for 10 minutes. If they’re too salty, rinse them. And then gorge yourself on the easiest pickles you’ve ever made. Just beware, we’ve only tried this with cucumbers – I’m not totally sure if it would work with all the other produce we’ve listed, but feel free to give it a try and make sure to slice really thin.

This recipe is just one in a series adapted from David Chang’s Momofuku, a much beloved cookbook documenting the rise of the small but mighty Momofuku restaurant empire in New York City’s East Village.

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Community Feasting and the Best Cupcake Frosting You May Ever Put In Your Mouth Thu, 29 Apr 2010 22:39:38 +0000 mei

I always wish I had access to a table large enough to seat 20 of my best friends around it for an epic dinner party. I still haven’t managed to acquire such a table or a room large enough to put it in, but I got a taste of what it might be like at a great event last night called the Hub Feast.  It’s a potluck and a dinner party,  a chance to meet great people and talk about all sorts of cool food things, and an opportunity to make an unnecessary amount of insanely indulgent peanut butter cream cheese-frosted cupcakes.  What more could you ask for?

The event took place at one of the Hubs:  a network of beautifully designed office/event/social spaces for members and their guests to work, meet, connect,  innovate, and more, located as close as Islington (the first one) and as far as Bombay and Sao Paulo. I’ve visited the gorgeous wood-beamed and exposed brick-walled Hub King’s Cross a few times to meet with our friends at Hide & Seek and so was excited to return for one of their monthly community feasts, described as follows:

The programme of Feasts for 2010 is well under way now and this month, we’ll be looking at Guerilla Food. Across London, there are people running underground restaurants, growing things in weird and wonderful places, cooking in unpredictable locations and using food in ways previously not explored. If you want to meet these people and find out a bit more about what they’re up to, we invite you to come along.

As always, you can expect to sit next to people who love food, cooking it, talking about it and most of all, eating it. So bring both an open mind and a dish to share to eat with people that love all things food. An informal evening with a very loose agenda, we hope to create a feast where conversation about food, life, love and everything in between, can flow freely.

We’ve been chatting with the lovely Hub folks including Holly, Alex, Lucy, and Eleanor about doing some events, so they invited us down to chat about Rambling Restaurant and underground supper clubs and all things delicious and exciting.  It all sounded like  pretty much like my ideal evening, so Sarah, foodrambler and I baked up a storm of lemon curd meringue roulades and several batches of the most insanely deliciously orgasmic Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting.

A quick aside on these cupcakes: I’d recommend you don’t click that recipe. In all seriousness…it will haunt your dreams. The banana cupcakes are very good; the peanut butter cream cheese frosting will bring you to your knees in pure tastebud joy.  The sublime happiness is only slightly marred by the guilty knowledge that the peanut butter (fat) plus cream cheese (fat) plus salted butter (fat) plus icing sugar in this frosting  is probably at work hardening your arteries as soon as the  cupcake crosses your lips and the smile crosses your face.  However,  keep in mind that all this tasty fat and sugar are calories that humans are genetically hardwired to love. This means it is not my fault when I eat gargantuan mounds of the frosting piped onto cupcakes (dangerous), slathered onto apples (healthy!), spread onto bananas (still good!), licked off of several kitchen tools (not so much) and then, finally, by the unabashedly deliberate spoonful.  I guarantee you will do the same. Blame biology.

But back to the feasting – it was a lovely evening of meeting, chatting, and of course, lots of eating. We went around the table and introduced ourselves so everyone got to see who was there and their cool projects and organizations and affiliations. I had great conversations about cooking and food spaces with Holly from Food Stuff and talked sustainable food development with some great people from Forum for the Future and saw but didn’t get enough time to chat with Chris from the Real Bread Campaign.  Meanwhile I ate fresh bread, hummous, spicy ginger carrot beetroot salad, Spanish omelette, flapjacks, apple crumble, spinach and strawberry salad, couscous, roasted vegetables, and so much more.  One of my favorite dishes was an amazing wait-a-minute-this-is-vegan?-you-must-be-joking leek pie made by a really nice guy named Alessio, whom I tackled after dinner to express my delight in his dish and ask his secret. Apparently, it’s soy cream. Don’t worry, it’s not actually a secret.

It was a wonderful occasion to meet a lot of creative, friendly, interesting people, all equally in love with food and cooking and community and eating.  I’m excited for the next one.  You can come along too, but only if you promise to take home some cupcakes so I don’t have to.  I still have some leftover frosting in the fridge and it is calling to me to come eat it with a big spoon…

]]> 3 A Night of Moulin Rouge at the Rambling Restaurant Thu, 29 Apr 2010 08:43:16 +0000 mei

Welcome to the Moulin Rouge Ramble, a dimly lit den of cabaret, cake  & corsets that popped up on Great Windmill Street a few weeks ago.  Hosted by the amazing word-of-mouth agency 1000heads, decorated by the creative visionary Ali O’Malley, and captured on film by the fantastically talented Mark, it was quite the evening to remember…as long as you didn’t down too many absinthe cocktails.

Come check out Mark’s amazing photos of our ephemeral Parisian creation filled with candlelit erotic poetry, beef bourguignon,  fishnet stockings and freeflowing champagne…

I tell you no lies when I mention the freeflowing champagne, generously supplied by the astonishingly accommodating, friendly, and up-for-anything folks at 1000heads.  Lined up in the soaring foyer of their Soho office building were dozens of champagne flutes, ready to welcome our diners who had solved mysterious clues of translation and location to turn up cabaret-clad in front of the Windmill Club for a night of adventure.

More meals should involve top hats and feathers.

All that week, we’d cooked and cleaned and baked and transported and decorated, up to the very last minute. Below, we add last-minute touches while the dancers practice their burlesque routines.

Thankfully, our dedicated team had everything looking spectacular by the time everyone arrived.

The Rambling Restaurant was lucky to have the most dedicated and gorgeous team of corseted and feathered servers from 1000heads, including the wonderful Lauren, Lisa, Donna, Gemma, Nicola, Sam, and even more who pitched in to hang curtains, wash dishes, move tables and boxes and abandon their desk and office space to our bizarre activities.  Below, Lauren and Lisa begin to take the cornichons and carrot salad out to be served with crusty baguettes & butter and foodrambler’s delicious pork rillettes.

The large flatscreen television gives away our boardroom-as-kitchen, from which we served and stewed our three course meal.

Here foodrambler and I spoon up slow-cooked beef stew with parsley cream sauce. While I loved the earthy combination of wine and spices in the bourguignon, it doesn’t make for the prettiest presentation.  That was one of the many lessons we learned while serving 140 eaters over 2 nights, as well as very important ones on keeping food hot and timely for people.  Just as foodrambler flambéed about 25  saucepans of beef that made her kitchen erupt in flames, we jumped straight into the fire for this dining challenge and learned a lot about what worked and what didn’t as we went along that will be valuable for future events.  Most useful information learned: how to rock a corset-apron combination.  So much wisdom gained over this experience.

Back in the satin-draped dining room, people showed off their masks and moustaches…

and displayed their amazing handmade Moulin Rouge themed hats (well done Ailbhe)…

and talked and ate and admired the decorations…

…and participated in a fancy dress competition led by the deliciously scandalous poet Abi Palmer

…and even found love at the Moulin Rouge.

But mostly, I think, they drank….

and drank…

…and drank.

We certainly contributed by handing out a very strong absinthe cocktail that we called the Drunken Fairy, but is generally known as Death In The Afternoon. Judging by the feedback from some aching heads the next day, it’s pretty apparent why.

I acknowledge I had quite a strong hand with the absinthe from Liqueurs de France

but it’s much more fun to blame it all on Nicola the Green Fairy.

Some of my favorite photos of the evenings are of the favorite people I met, including the shot of this laughing lady…

and this adorable photo of our sexy dancers, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs. I only wish I had been hardcore enough to go out dancing with them till 6am like some impressive people I know.

Even if you don’t go clubbing with dancers in fishnets, you at least need to fit in a photo shoot in front of the Windmill Club.

Before our late night marathon dancing and cleaning sessions, we ended with a very sticky Moulin Rouge Velvet cake. I loved foodrambler’s chocolate fishnet stockings, threatening to slide off the tilting cake into a pool of buttery frosting madness.  I cut the red velvet cake into shocking scarlet slices that looked insane but tasted damn good.

And of course, everything tastes better with birthday candles.

Thanks a million to everyone involved. For more on the event, check out blog posts by foodrambler and 1000heads.

All photos copyright by Mark, except the last one from 1000heads.

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