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Jay Francis

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  1. I am nearing the completion of Phase I. I'm not the best of writers so what follows is pretty much stream of consciousness. I am, however, maybe too good a cook, as what I prepare usually tastes so good that portion control is a big problem for me. Knowing that I need to drop 30 pounds, it was time to find a diet and exercise program that suits my personality. Which is what the Fat Smash diet does. What the "detox" phase is doing for me is weaning me from my craving for wheat products, starches, chocolates, etc. Fruits and vegetables are not forbidden, so that there is a source for "sweet". Four to five meals a day keeps the hunger pangs down, although I still have stayed hungry. Protein sources come from skim milk, egg whites, yogurt, tofu, beans and lentils in Phase 1. I am not a fan of dairy with the exception of yogurt. So, I have been making yogurt on a daily basis and straining it to thicken into a cheeselike consistency (1 quart low fat milk brought to 180 F then cooled to 105 F, add 1 tablespoon,no more than, yogurt (Dannon works as does Mountain High) and let sit in a closed unheated oven for 24 hours, then strain with cheesecloth; add chopped de-seeded cucumber and garlic if desired). Now, by focusing on whole fruits and vegetables rather than processed products or juices, Fat Smash gets you into the mode of adding more fiber to your diet, which is excellent. I eat oatmeal (not instant, which is so powder-y you don't get any fiber) and I eat it savory, seasoned with a little Tony Chachere seasoning rather than with milk and cinnamon. Two recipes tried, the green bean salad (excellent) and the vegetable soup (also excellent, the mushrooms add a surprisingly nice flavor component). No white rice but brown rice is part of Phase 1. Normally I would prepare brown rice in a rice cooker from scratch but I am cheating and using the Success Rice brown rice boil in bags. One of the rare commercially produced products that is pretty good. Will you get hungry? Yes. But if you can fight the urge to eat before bedtime, you will be less hungry the next day. Have I lost weight? Going into day 9 the answer is yes. I have dropped at least 5 legitimate (not water weight) pounds. Do you need to exercise? Absolutely. I've been doing the recumbent bicycle at 30 minutes and a heart rate of 135. I plan to increase as time goes on. Major impact: I haven't had any bread products, non-fruit sweets, or chocolate. The diet allowed me to burn out my constant craving for starches. Have I cheated? Yes. Sort of cheating was to toast some lentil based pappadums as "chips". I went to a Chinese cafe with the intent of getting a tofu dish, ordered Ma Po Tofu, and when I discovered it had pork and oil, I ate around it anyway. Still hungry, I went to a Middle Eastern restaurant for tabouli. Best discovery: Find yourself a Middle Eastern buffet restaurant. Here in Houston, Dimassi's is best. You'll be able to eat tabouli, fatoush, greek salad, bean dishes to your hearts content. Lots of flavor and variety so you won't get bored. No pita though. Watch the oil. Yep, definitely find a Middle Eastern cafe to eat at. At first it seems like an overwhelming diet to follow. But you can get through Phase 1. You may want to stay in Phase 1 longer though. Update 1: I have completed the Phase 1 detox and am pleased to confirm that by diligently following the recommendations, I have successfully eliminated my craving for bread products and white rice. I have been able to say "no" to naan at two Indian restaurant outings and home-made bread at one restaurant and at home. Of note is Dr. Smith's recommendation that meals not be eaten too closely to bed-time. This has proved to be beneficial. Yesterday I made the asparagus and lentil soup. It is flavorful and filling, so, of all the recipes tried, all have been good. My weight has dropped 6 pounds from the start of the diet. Update 2: The gumbo recipe in the book is excellent, though I cut back on the file by one tablespoon, and substitute a chopped chicken breakfast and spicy turkey sausage (from Central Market here in Houston) for the seafood. The recipe uses whole wheat flour and it worked fine, though it was tricky to gauge the browning of the roux, resulting in my not taking it all the way to dark brown. I have been able to say "No" to desserts and bread on multiple occasions now.
  2. Knife Sharpener. I recently bought the Furi using a 20% off coupon at Bed Bath and Beyond and so far I am very pleased. Sur la Table does a terrific job of sharpening knives for $1 per inch. I wouldn't recommend Central Market based on what I've heard from others. The Guild Shop on Dunlavy is a great place to scour for used cookware
  3. Los Crotos in Puerto Escondido for huachinango a la parilla, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  4. I've posted a lunch date for Friday June 9 in the ISO section of this forum. Jay
  5. Yogurt curdling. Think of yogurt as thin threads of lactobacillus forming a web throughout a wet structure. In a sense the solidity of the yogurt is an illusion. So, heat applied quickly dis-integrates the structure. Corn starch adds a starch binder. However, your gravy needs to be warm-ish, not hot for it to work.
  6. The first recipe for paneer I ever came across called for using alum. Problem was, if you got your dose wrong, the paneer was unpalatable. I switched to lemon juice several years ago. Any acid will do the trick (actually I hadn't heard of rice vinegar being used until this posting). Just use whole milk and an acid. Note, you could probably supplement the milk solids by adding some nonfat powdered milk.
  7. I liked the crampiness of the old place. And I was worried that the higher maintenance costs at the new location would force them to increase their prices. No mre Sam's Club for the Middle East. But I was very pleased with the place. It really is almost overly spacious. I noticed that you can get a (non-pork) merguez type North African sausage here now and that is very cool. On my recent trip, I bought a doumbek for about $30 and no food. But I am going there this week-end to stock up on stuff. Phoenicia is dead. Long live Phoenicia!
  8. I feel like championing this terrific little restaurant. I'm convinced that they make the best naan in town, I can't think of a place that does it better. Lunch Buffet. There isn't one. The problem with lunch buffets are that for the most part the dishes are heated from underneath with sterno. The food doesn't get turned and the onions and some other vegetables start to look dark or greyish. Plus, with spinach, which has a lot of iron in it, the color starts to turn. No. No lunch buffet for the Himalaya. Instead you get a freshly prepared lunch plate with a sampling of chicken tikka masala, naan made fresh for you and an ample portion of whatever other creative dishes he has made for the day. His attention to freshness is the best. So, I started recently returning here for lunch. But it really is a lot of food (which is why I hadn't been in awhile) and I discovered another spectacular dish on the menu. Billed simply as grilled fish with naan, this is a (locally purchased, not frozen Chinese) grilled tilapia with the fire and spices we've associated with Indo-Pak food. And as always the naan is perfect. The fish is served simply, on a bed of sliced onions with tomatoes. Be sure to ask for raita. Save some room for the coconut macaroons. I first met Chef Lashkani (sic?) several years ago through a Parsi friend of mine, when he had a small place on Beechnut, mainly for take-out and catering to the Pakistani and Indian community. We went in and just hung out with him. "Well, what would you like to eat", he asked. There really wasn't a menu so we left ourselves in his hands. At Himalaya, his menu is extensive. It's a low key place, very relaxed atmosphere. You order at the counter. I'm told that his most popular dish is the special biriani, but I prefer, and would recommend you order the following on your first visit: Handi chicken Chicken tikka masala Grilled fish with naan Coconut macaroons and mango ice cream for dessert For milder, less spicy options: "Persian" kabobs with rice and Saag Paneer Additionally, if you are (unlike me) a fan of the Pakistani classic dishes: haleem and nehari, my Pakistani friends tell me his are spectacular. On Friday night, a group of 8 of us gathered there. We let it all out, with at least one entree per person, several biriani, mango lassi, lots of naan, lots of desserts. A real feast. And with tax and tips, it still was only $33 a couple. Robb has reviewed this restaurant for the Press and you can locate his review in the archives at the Houston Press. I don't know if Alison has, but if she hasn't, she should. Note: You go to most Pakistani oriented restaurants and the food is floating in oil (its their style). There's definitely less oil usage at Himalaya. Those familiar with Balti style cooking from the UK know that it's not as critical to have rice with your meal as would be at more Indian focused restaurants. By the way, if you're fortunate to be there just as the basmati comes out of the cooker, wow. So, when people come to visit from out of town, this restaurant (along with Tampico, Lopez, Caspian, Jasmine) is the one I take them to. Jay
  9. Those pictures say it all don't they? Traditionally the type of bread used is the "telera" not the "bollio". It is the same dough but pressed flatter with a dowel to crimp the middle. The bread is toasted a la plancha, on the griddle. One side is spread with refried beans, the other with avocado. Mayonnaise is very common. Additionally, as noted above, shredded lettuce, tomato, chile jalapeno and onion. Milanesa (milanese syle thin breaded pork) is most typical. I like to make tortahamburguesas, that is, a burger done in the traditional torta style. If you order this at a taqueria though, they'll also put a slice of ham and melt some white cheese on it, Mexico style. One day, one of the fast food chains will start marketting a "tortaburger", I'm sure and it will have as much to do with an authentic torta as Taco Bell "gorditas" have to do with authentic gorditas or Jack in the Box 'ciabatta' has to do with, well, you know what I mean. I think I'll run out and copyright the "tortaburger" name right now!
  10. Seems to me there used to be an all Beijing duck restaurant on Bissonnet or Beechenut called The Golden Duck. If it still exists, I would guess they have more duck fat than they know what to do with it.
  11. Could be the lecithin, then. Hmmm. Still, if anyone out there would like me to mail them a couple of candy samples to experiment with, let me know.
  12. There is a manufacturer of Leche Quemada in Kingsville, Texas that makes a very creamy, melt in your mouth, version of this traditional Mexican candy. They only list milk and sugar as their (main) ingredients. Also lecithin and artificial vanilla. I have tried several ratios of milk to sugar without success in duplicating it. I have toyed with the thought that they might be using oil, cream, nonfat dry milk or some other component and not listing it on the ingredients list. I can't imagine the magic difference is the lecithin, but maybe it is. I would really like to figure out how to duplicate this candy as a friend of mine who owns an Indian restaurant (there are several Indian sweets that are similar but not quite the same....) and I have been brainstorming about this candy for a while now. Are there any candymakers or pastry people out there who would like to help me out on this project? I could mail you a couple of servings of their candy. Best regards, Jay
  13. Would you object to boiling your water in a teapot? The reason I am asking is, in my opinion, Chemex is the optimum coffee maker. The filter paper is first class. And because you heat the wate separately, you can control the water temperature hitting the coffee grounds. I enjoy the extra puttering around, heating the water, pouring it over the grounds, the whole Chemex process. Plus, I can use distilled or reverse osmosis water, that is my preferred water source for coffee making. You can find vintage Chemex on ebay. I have never liked the French Press. Too much grit in the coffee. Chemex gets my vote.
  14. Coca Cola, as we all know, gets its flavor from bubbling sherry through de-cocanized coca leaves, thus, the raison why all Coca-Cola base comes from one source. Some countries are rumored to still use cane sugar, Mexico for example, instead of high fructose corn syrup. But I have done side by side taste tests with American Coca-Cola and Mexican Coca-Cola and cannot distinguish the two in a double blind test. I just tried BLAK. The flavor is not very coffee-ish, certainly nothing like the flavor of a Greek style frappe made with European Nescafe instant, nor like a whipped up iced coffee made by concentrating coffee extract through a Vietnamese filter and then whipping in a blender with sugar and ice. No, the taste, and who knows why, is more like coconut. I taste coconut, almonds and cocoa. Very strange when you consider the ingredients list. Wouldn't it be amusing if Coca-Cola had decided to market several different flavors for BLAK, and the flavor you got would be completely random, so as to confuse you about the taste? This is a high fructose corn syrup drink. Very sweet. After I go through my four pack, I will never buy this product again.
  15. Here is a basic Balti Style Curry Sauce that is a good building block. I hope you enjoy it. Balti Style cooking was popularized in Birmingham and spread from there. It evolved out of a Northern Pakistan (near Chinese border) style of cooking in a wok-like cookpot (aka, karai or kadai). Balti Style Curry Sauce (For Chicken, Tilapia, or Shrimp) 3 tbs vegetable oil 4 medium onions (size of a hardball), chopped Small 1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped 1-3 garlic cloves, chopped 1 ripe Roma tomato, chopped 1 tbs paprika ½ tsp turmeric ½ tsp ground cumin ½ tsp ground coriander 1 tsp cayenne or other chilli powder 1 cup cilantro leaves (stems okay if cut just below the second set of leaves, but don’t use thicker parts of stems) Salt to taste Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onions and ginger until the onions are translucent, being careful not to burn them. Add the garlic and continue for a minute or so. Add the tomato and about 1 1/14 cups of water. Add all of the spices except cilantro, bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Pour into a blender and liquidize. Be careful of hot liquid splatter! Leave the cap on the blender slightly open for protection. Return to heat, add cilantro and add cooked shrimp or tilapia. Some cooks add more garlic, chili peppers, cream, yogurt, or coconut. If using yogurt, add one cup that has first been stabilized with 1 tsp corn starch.
  16. I had the pleasure of dining at laidback tonight. Here are some of my stream of consciousness thoughts, which is the only way I can write. The wife was at a baby shower and my attempt at doing the Cinco de Mayo thing didn't fare well. I tried out the new El Patio near Spec's downtown, but left after only a little while. Although, I did start the day with a terrific plate of Enchiladas Potosinas at a Stafford taqueria for lunch. I think that, had I just ordered just one entree off the menu I would not have been as pleased as I ended up being, by doing "the voyage". This is a place where one should eat slowly and savor every little surprise. And I did have some favorites. The duck was great, the substitute of grilled scallops for the egg dish (that I declined) was great, the flatiron steak was great. At one point I decided that I would eat these tapa-sized entrees with my fingers and that was a good decision. There was this dill puree that melted in my mouth, definitely the winner of the evening, but, I'm afraid only because I did not mix in the goat cheese that it came with. The cheese would have overpowered it. As I slowly made my way through the dishes I realized that I would be perfectly full. As the Brits say, I would have had an elegant sufficiency. This isn't a good place to come to if you're super hungry, but if you plan it as a one event evening and take your time with everything you will be rewarded. Kind of like jazz, you let everything just flow over you, intellectualize a little but mainly just go with the flow as each dish follows the last. Now, hats off to the pastry chef. The desserts were wonderful. Especially loved the semi-freddo caramel gelato with little bitty popcorn pieces and a chocolate ganache that was intense and not too sweet. I would come back just for the desserts. Randy's mom was there and we got to chat about chicken enchiladas which was fun. And, she gave me her recipe for jalapeno cheesecake. The meal, with bottled water, tax and tip came to $100.
  17. Jay Francis

    Coconut Milk

    Here's a tip when making a Thai curry. Stir fry you curry paste (red or green or massaman or other) in a little oil over medium heat. Add you chopped up chicken breasts and stir fry to coat for a few minutes. Then sprinkle one pack of coconut powder to coat the chicken. The chicken is giving off moisture and this re-constitutes the coconut powder, resulting in a richer gravy. Add enough water to make a medium gravy.
  18. If cost is a consideration, (and I too think the Sumeet is the way to go), we can find the Cuisinart Mini-Mate Plus Chopper/Grinder here in Houston for around $20. Though mine came from a second hand store for $4. I've used it to successfully grind up lemon grass and Thai curry ingredients. It doesn't have a large capacity and is a bit of a mess to work with, but it's cheaper.
  19. Ditto to Jason's comments. I make my sauce using a combination of (no salt added when available) one can tomato sauce, one can tomato puree, one can tomato paste, one onion diced and sauteed in oil then added to the tomato sauces. Pour sauces over a pork chop and simmer until thick and infused with the flavor of the pork chop. Add traditional Italian herbs and salt to taste. Fresh tomato sauces are a whole diffrent animal.
  20. Jay Francis

    Coconut Milk

    Change the word 'extract' to 'extraction' and you're good to go. I always use Chaokoh. Alternatively, you can tell by comparing the fat content on the two cans.
  21. Jay Francis


    There are two terrific La Michoacana ice cream and paleterias very near the main square of the church. And, I had my first iguana stew in Taxco a decade ago. One of our high points on a recent trip. We got up early in the morning and caught the combi to the Grutas de Cacahuamilpa. You have plenty of time to take the tour of the cave. And the fondas outside of the cave (upstairs) are terrific. The combi comes back at around 1:00 in the afternoon to take you back to Taxco. Details are in Frommer's, but you'll still want to check at Flecha Roja when you get there. I think I remember that we arrived at 8:30 since we didn't know the schedule, and the combi came at 9:30 or 10:00. Now, depending on your plans...don't forget that, if you don't want to stay in Mexico City first, you can catch a first class bus directly from the airport to Cuernavaca and then continue on to Taxco from Cuernavaca. Buses leave from the airport to Puebla, Querretaro, Cuernavaca, Toluca, and maybe one or two other cities. For example if you were bussing to Oaxaca, you would grab the bus to Puebla making sure to get the one that goes to the main bus station, and then connect to Oaxaca in Puebla.
  22. Well, I just read Allison's article and I didn't come away from it as "trashing the restaurant". It seemed like a pretty balanced review to me. I guess I will make it over to laidback soon, although I think I'd have more fun doing prep work in the kitchen than being out in the front of the house as a diner. I'm like this. I have a Global chef's knife. But I only bring out the Global when I'm teaching a cooking class and want to impress. Daily, I default to my $30 Dexter Chinese cleaver that Dorothy Huang turned me on to about 2 decades ago. Still sharp as a razor (thank you, Sur La Table knife sharpening machine!). I have trouble enjoying fancy shmancy food. I can appreciate the work that went into it but......... But now, I know that I have to try laidback. Let's see what magic they do with all their little food techniques. There's a story that I've been quoting for ages now. Robert Sietsema told me this one when we were buddies back at UT (and here he is, these years later, restaurant critic at the Village Voice). Apparently when T.S. Elliot was working on The Wasteland, he created a section in the poem that was in the style of John Milton. He asked Ezra Pound to have a look at it. Which he did. Ezra sends back a note to Elliot. "Don't parody Milton unless you can write better poetry than Milton. Which you can't." So, we'll have to see what is what at laidback, innovation or emulation?
  23. I came across a really good website: www.cookingforengineers.com
  24. Right now Spec's on Smith has some superlative virgin olive oils from Chile. These are not for the faint of heart though, very grassy with an intense burn at the back of the throat, for olive oil aficionados. And very nicely priced at $17.
  25. I have decided that, once in my life, I need to splurge and buy an expensive bottle of balsamic vinegar. Knowing, though, how in the tequila industry, price does not reflect quality, I am very nervous about plunking down a lot of money for what would turn out to not be anything more than a 'boutique' balsamic with a high price tag. I need help. If anyone has had the opportunity to taste and assess different balsamics and could recommend an excellent one.
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