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Everything posted by zora

  1. Anissa is giving a culinary tour in Syria in May, check it out in http://www.anissas.com/travels.html hope this didn't come too late, Did you find anything interesting in your search? A nice book is Poopa Dweck's Aroma's of Aleppo ← In fact, I'm already scheduled on the trip! Unfortunately, I haven't found anything else yet. (Though I have bought the Aromas of Aleppo book...)
  2. Right. If I pick up a cookbook and browse through it, and the majority of the recipes look appealing and do-able, I'll buy it. Sometimes it even helps if there are some ingredients with which I'm not readily familiar. And if I have good luck with the recipes I try first, I look forward to sampling those with more intriguing ingredients. If they look good and interesting enough, I wouldn't mind ordering a few things from the internet. I would suggest, though, that you include the definition and resource section at the back of the book. I think they're helpful. ← Yes, we have already put in some Internet sources for the rarer stuff, and we explain just about everything. (One of our recipe testers pointed out that she didn't know miso was a refrigerated item, for instance.) The book is partially aimed at curious-but-new-to-cooking types, so we don't want to scare too many people. But from everyone's feedback, I'm encouraged that people in bookstores won't slam the book shut in despair at the sight of some of these ingredients. Back to the butcher question--does anyone use one regularly? If you don't go to a dedicated meat guy (gal?), is the one at your supermarket useful? Can you order custom cuts?
  3. I gotta say, I'm surprised that sherry vinegar is so common. That's the one thing I cannot consistently find in my own neighborhood!
  4. Thanks, Rogelio! I'll be driving around both provinces--so out-of-town recs are just as good to know! And I love "unfashionable but superb"--sounds perfect!
  5. I like that kind of resourcefulness!
  6. pul biber=Aleppo pepper, afaik. I think there are some variants in terms of how much they're toasted and oiled, but basically the same. Good question for the Mid East section...
  7. Thanks, guys--this helps a lot! (It's also swaying me toward including a recipe for pomegranate molasses...) And duly noted re: miso (paste). It's just miso now in the book...not sure what kind of redundancy came over me when I was typing this post!
  8. Oh, I know. But that takes a degree of planning ahead and dedication that I don't want to force on people...
  9. zora

    Isla Mujeres

    Interesting... So where is the new location? My next trip isn't till the summer--it's killing me!
  10. zora

    Isla Mujeres

    Fantastic to hear about the newer joints, Holly! It kills me because the guidebooks I work on just came out in new editions in the fall--I probably visited right before Qubano and Olivia opened. Arg. What's up with Cazuela M&J? Why'd it move, and is it back in its original spot now?
  11. zora


    I second the La Lomita rec. In the Cancun hotel zone, look for El Fish Fritanga, just south of La Isla mall, next to the Domino's. You go down the steps to the lagoon and fish-taco heaven. In downtown, I loooove Los Huaraches de Alcatraces, on the southeast corner of Parque de las Palapas. Only open till about 4pm, though. In the evenings, the vendors on the park are delish. Oh, and those Ty-Coz sandwich shops: yummy! France meets Mex!
  12. zora

    Hobox Island

    Last time I was there, about a year ago, Holbox was still pretty much all cash. Only one restaurant I can think of was advertising that it took credit cards--and it's not a very good restaurant. (Not even sure how this works, as the telecom situation on Holbox is so basic--certainly not an instant charge to your account!) So pack the cash... I had a memorable meal at La Cueva del Pirata many years ago, but have heard recent reports that it has a new owner, and is not as great. Would be curious to hear what you find. On my last visit, best meal was at a place I'm forgetting the name of--a two-story palapa situation just west off the square. (I should know these things--I write guidebooks! Der...)
  13. Oh, that didn't take so long. Amazing what gets done when I procrastinate. For more color commentary, see my blog post. ** First of all, thanks again to everyone who commented on my initial whine for help upthread. Especially Ptitpois for encouraging the use of gigantes. I did quite a lot of reading, but like others, I synthesized a few sources, referring to Julia Child and Paula Wolfert for a lot of details. First, about 8 days before the dinner, I made some duck confit. I followed Paula Wolfert's edict of 22g of salt per pound of meat, but either I did my math wrong or that is just really a ton of salt--more than I've ever used for confit before. I didn't add all that I'd measured, and it still turned out very salty. I also confited the whole duck, instead of just the legs. The breast meat wasn't as tender, but in the end product, you couldn't tell at all. I think for this purpose, it's fine to do the whole duck, and easier to work with. And letting it age a week did noticeably change the flavor. AND I got the air cleared out of the kitchen, which helped my attitude a lot. A few days later, I made some sausage. It was kind of a weak sausage effort, seeing how no meat grinder or casings were involved. I basically used Julia Child as inspiration to just make patties, and was heartened to read Paula Wolfert's encouraging words re: the use of a food processor. So my little sausage patties didn't have the fluffiest texture, but they tasted great. Amazing what a slug of brandy will do for some pork, and I subbed pancetta for straight fat, per Wolfert, and added more garlic than either called for. I fried them up the day I assembled the cassoulet: For the beans, I had a pound of gigantes, and I had half a pound of great northerns. I threw those in a separate pot. This was handy, actually, because I got to try a couple of different approaches to simmering the beans. Results: whole onions are fine, pork skin is good and cloves stuck in the onion are fun to do and help clear out years-old spice inventory, but may or may not make a difference in the long run. I was happy to have gotten the pork skin--part of the effort in this cookbook is making it beyond-fancy-NYC-shopping-friendly, and it does seem like the average US supermarket carries more odd bits of pig than it used to. I got unsmoked pork hocks there too. For the meat, I did mostly lamb, with a smidge of pork left from the sausage-making--maybe about a pound total. Per something I'd read somewhere (losing track now), I put this in its own garlic-onion-carrot-tomato-wine-stock stew for about an hour. I'm very pro-carrot--I guess I'm weak-willed, but I like to see a little veg in among my hunks of meat and beans. Then I layered everything together. I wound up using only about 2/3 of my duck confit, and the same of my sausage (I had a little more than a pound of that). The unappealing orange stuff is the lamb stew. But it tasted good. Oh, I remember why: I put about 1/3 of a pound of pancetta in too. Oh, I forgot: on the bottom of the pot, I put in the pieces of pork skin, kind of as a buffer. I already knew from my restaurant visits that I was not keen on the pork skin, but I figured it would be nice to line the pot with, and maybe someone would like it. But I left it in big hunks, so it would be easy to pull out. I grated some nutmeg on top. It felt a little ridiculous, but whatever. In the end, it's hard to tell whether this or the clove did anything substantial, but I'd hate to go to all the trouble again without them, and then have it be boring... I poured in a lot of bean stock and let the baby bake a couple of hours. Slid it in the "walk-in"--aka the uninsulated pantry--for the night. Pulled it out two hours before dinner and stuck it in a cold oven set to 300, after adding another cup or so of bean liquid. About 20 minutes before dinner, I sprinkled on some bread crumbs, mixed with some chopped-up parsley. (The vegetables--I cling to them like a mirage), and then scooped up some of the fat layer to drizzle over them. They crisped up beautifully at the end: I was a little nervous digging into it, especially for the texture. The beans had cooked more quickly than I thought they would, and were verging on too soft when I layered them into the pot. I had also been very liberal with the bean stock, to counteract previous efforts, where the beans had just glommed up in a wad. And I wasn't sure if my little sausage patties would actually hold together. Aside from the confirmed nastiness of the pork skin, it turned out pretty well. (One person at the table ate his piece of skin, and said he kind of liked it...) The key thing was the textural variety, I think. Although the beans were a wee bit squishy, they hadn't gotten totally gummy yet, and the less-than-standard sausage texture was actually a plus--it gave a little something to properly chew on. And the bread crumbs rocked. I don't care what the hard-liners say. Next time, I will make doubly sure the beans are not too soft, and I might add even a bit more liquid. What I got was brothy enough to serve in bowls, but had also gotten a smidge thicker and starchier than I would've liked. And I was skeptical of Paula Wolfert's declaration way upthread that smoked meats should really be avoided. But now I'm with her. Previous cassoulets I've had a hand in have usually had smoked hocks, and some bacon and some very toasty lard, which might contribute to the overall flattening-out of the flavors. This cassoulet, with nothing smoked, was a little brighter tasting--or as bright as something with that much meat in it can be. So my co-author on the cookbook is still an avowed fan of the bean crust (no crumbs), and she hates carrots. So the recipe is going to be filled with options--but maybe that gets to the spirit of cassoulet best anyway. I feel like devising a flow chart for it... I'll let you know how it goes!
  14. Yeah, I'll definitely draw it out longer next time--I was doing it over one weekend. But I like the idea of giving the confit a week or so to age...and giving the air a chance to clear! Re: dried beans...there's just no way to know how old they are, is there? I mean, if you're not buying them from someone who's v. close to the source...
  15. Thanks a million for the detailed analysis, chrisamirault! I've spent the last couple hours reading the cassoulet cook-off thread. Don't get me wrong--I love duck confit, and I've made it at home quite a few times. I think the queasiness kicks in when I spend all day doing a duck chop shop--breaking down the whole bird and making stock, making pate, etc. Then I wake up in the middle of the night with the smell all around me. (Doesn't help that my bedroom is directly upstairs from the kitchen.) Bleh. My next attempt will definitely involve more liquid, and more and better sausage... It was just my butcher's standard house-made pork business, and it got lost in all the other business. And pork rind. I didn't really appreciate the function of it before--I thought it was just in there for flavoring, not as something you end up eating. On the other hand, I have to say I don't have a huge natural affinity for beans. A byproduct of being raised by hippies in the 70s? But I just had some beautifully cooked pinto beans the last time I was in New Mexico, and they were splendid. So I know there's hope!
  16. Thanks for the thread links! Why don't those show up when I run a search for cassoulet? And I suppose reading more recipes is more economically sound than actually flying to France...unfortunately.
  17. See, that's what I'm thinking. I mean, what's _not_ to like? Thanks so much for the specifics on beans and liquid levels! I will definitely try a batch with the gigantes--I think it might also give it a little more visual interest...
  18. Ah, see, I haven't explained the whole story. I'm working on a cookbook with someone who really, really loves cassoulet, and she wants to include a recipe. So I am, effectively, obliged to like it--or at least make it something that I like better than the version we currently have. But I am leery of going too far, and inadvertently taking out the innate cassoulet-ness of the thing. (Like, would anyone consider it cassoulet if I used big Greek-style gigantes beans?) I don't quite feel like I have the right to tinker much, if I haven't yet had the Platonic ideal of cassoulet. And I unfortunately don't have time or budget to fly to Toulouse and dine at the source. (Or wait...do I? <opens new tab for kayak.com>) One more precise question: What's people's preferred liquid level? I've had stuff that's very soupy, and I've had more of a baked casserole texture. And all the recipes I've read all seem to peter out at the end, finishing up with a vague "cook till beans are tender" and no mention of what the texture _between_ the beans ought to be.
  19. [Moderator's note: Starting with this post, the topic "Cassoulet -- Is It Really All That?" mas been merged into this general cassoulet topic. CA] I'm a little embarrassed to say this, but...I don't think I like cassoulet? Much? The trouble is, I haven't eaten a whole lot of it, but I have cooked it a couple of times. (I know...that's flawed, but what the heck. I basically merged a recipe from Saveur with various wisdom from Larousse.) And the cooking involves filling my house with the smell of duck grease, which is initially lovely but later makes me feel a little queasy. So I can't tell if I don't like cassoulet because a) I haven't eaten the good stuff, b) I've cooked it badly, c) I'm queasy from the duck grease, or d) all of the above. In an attempt to educate myself, I recently ate cassoulet at a couple of restaurants. One version was totally awful--like Van de Kamp's canned beans, with some slithery bits of meat, and what tasted distinctly like a maple-flavored breakfast link. And the other was good and garlicky and fully of tasty sausage, but still...kinda just pork and beans, when you got down to it. SOOO. My question: Is it constitutionally possible to just not like the stuff? (To hear people talk about it, you wouldn't think so...) Or am I missing some magical ingredient/element? Concrete tips, as well as general moral support, appreciated.
  20. And, incidentally, getting back to markemorse's comment about Mexican food... I'm not sure what it's like in AZ, but in NM, the devotion to New Mexican food (which everyone calls Mexican, and when they mean Mexican from Mexico, they say 'Mexican Mexican') is so strong that it overpowers a lot of regional Mexican Mexican stuff. Basically, you have to treat Mexican Mexican like any other ethnic food, and seek out the immigrants cooking it in a dedicated restaurant--and there aren't many full sit-down restaurants devoted to it, mostly just taco joints. Case in point: There is (or was) a restaurant in Taos called Antonio's, specializing in high-end regional Mexican. He had a token page of New Mexican stuff on the back of the menu. Soon, he had to move it to the front page of the menu. Then he had to shut down that big space and open a smaller cafe, specializing in chile rellenos (NM-style), though he does still squeeze in chiles en nogada on the side. Down in the southern part of the state, Mexican Mexican is more "out," probably because it's closer to the border. And even what I think of as New Mexican food is weird down there--creamy green chile? Nasty... But that's what I start thinking when I go into AZ or TX and order enchiladas. Just not the same, and almost never as spicy-hot. Chufi, was it still chile-roasting season when you were there? Green chile roasting is one of my favorite smells.
  21. So sorry to hear about your abrupt dinner at Aqua Santa! I love that place so much... And, ha, the scene at Coyote Cafe is pretty silly, no? Santa Fe's flashiest. (Most New Mexicans would say all those flashy people must've come from Dallas.) I think the restaurant is not so hot, but it's a cultural experience...
  22. I just fell down the rabbit hole reading this entire thread--fabulous recommendations of exactly the kind of food I want to know more about in Amsterdam (sweets and Indonesian takeaway!). I will start eating first thing tomorrow morning!
  23. I got in a long, confusing conversation last night about greens, complicated by my never having learned the Arabic words for these things and the other person not knowing any English words for them, and also not having been on hand in the kitchen to see a lot of them raw. We tried looking through the Chef Ramzi cookbook for pics, but no luck. The main confusing ones: Hindaba' Baqli (?) And if neither of those are purslane, how do you say purslane in Arabic? And there's some kind of herb/green you put in tea called something like marharam? Marhamia? It's already slipping away... Any help greatly appreciated!
  24. This boiling-water trick is the technique I always use, for pilaf and everything--but if you use the right amount, you don't even have to drain it. My Moosewood Cooks at Home cookbook says, I think, 2 1/4 c. boiling water poured over 1 1/2 c. bulgur and set aside. I use the mid-weight grind--#2? Not the super-coarse or the super-fine (I have used this on super-fine, and it winds up v. soggy). It looks alarming at first, like the bulgur will not absorb it all, but I just fluff every so often while I'm prepping the rest of the stuff, and it's fine by the time I'm ready to combine everything, in 20 or 30 minutes. If you want to use fat, then sautee your onions, etc. in that, and just combine it all the end. And I see no reason why you couldn't use boiling stock instead, for more flavor.