Monday, July 16, 2007

CONFESSIONS OF A CRAZED POPCORN LOVER - the glory of movie night.

When I was in Paris last year we popped corn kernels in a wide skillet without a drop of oil, and strung it on our little Charlie Brown-sized Christmas tree. (His name was Norman).

In early June when it was my mother's birthday and we were settling in for a cozy night of movie-renting and popcorn-candy binging, my desire for making fresh, un-microwaved popcorn struck hard. I remembered Paris and fell under images of a deep, heavy skillet spilling over with mounds of crackling light, homemade popcorn. And butter too! Bowls of butter bathing every crevice, and steaming sweet salty nothings onto our dissolving tongues.
Soon enough I was clanging about the cupboards, digging for the giant stove top pot and smacking alarmingly large wedges of unsalted butter off and into a small saucepan for melting. My mom became tense with all this calmour, and led herself to fretting at the slightest indication of a burnt pan, or the lack of (or over abundance of) coconut oil being used to heat the sweet yellow seed. I rattled and shook, covered and uncovered the pot, peering at the thin layer of glistening kernels bobbing slightly under the pressure of all that growing heat and ignored her. My hair separated and frayed, grew larger over eyes crazed with desire, my face blurred in the maddening steam... She would just have to wait and see.
Mountains! Glorious glowing bright butter colored mountains of pale white yellow popcorn began to erupt from the pot. A few soared like flying fish from The Muppets while I reigned over the rest with my aluminum sheild. A few shakes more and my crop was delivered to the crayola blue bowl waiting on the table. Then came down the warm, heavy rain, drizzling two sticks of unsalted, freshly melted butter over the billowing bowl of hot, dry popcorn. And what could be better than that? (Perhaps dishes of sea salt plucked from their shelves, the thin flakes crushed lightly with all 5 fingers in a flurry and zeal as yet undiscovered since the days of the freshly-picked garden basil or the peppercorns-cracked over homemade vichyssoise. )
In a giant bowl, butter pooling lightly at the bottom and sides scraped with invisible grains of salt, I brought the glory into the den, and we ate. we dug we dug we dug down deep into the bowl, hungry, happy and heavenly fresh.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Our local paper is pretty cool, but not a place where an occasional food snob like me would assume I would find the BEST BROWNIE RECIPE EVER. I stumbled upon this recipe in an article that covered a few different types of how to make the luxurious chocolately fudgey cakey dream confection-thing known as our beloved brownie. This recipe is attributd to Nick Malgieri from the book Chocolate: From Simple Cookies to Extravagant Showstoppers .

I made this brownie recipe for my aunt's 64th birthday after making them once before just for us (my mom, stepdad, me and my boyfriend Danny boy) Imagine late night wedges cracking as you gently lift them up from the pan, cheeks stuffed with heavy, hidden warmth as you sneak a bite for breakfast, and spontaneous ziploc bag stowaways anytime you fear you may be gone long enough to need a light, throat sticking, sweet chocolate humming brownie injection.

ahem. heh...


you will need: a 13x9" baking pan and parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2 sticks (16 Tbls.) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan and paper.

8 oz. bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate
(I highly recommend Trader Joes Belgian Pound Plus bar for major bang for the buck)

4 eggs

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp vanilla

1 cup flour

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, or 3/4 cup whole walnuts, optional. (as is any preferred nut)

Butter a 13x9 inch baking pan and line with buttered parchment paper.

In the top pan of a double boiler set over barely simmering water, melt the 2 sticks of butter and the chocolate together. When all have melted together, remove from heat and cool slightly.

In a large bowl or mixer, whisk eggs.

Whisk in salt, sugars, and vanilla.

Whisk in chocolate/butter mixture.

Fold in flour until just combined.

If using chopped walnuts, stir them in.

Turn batter evenly into prepared pan. If using whole walnuts, arrange on top of the batter.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven 40-45 minutes until shiny and beginning to crack on top.

Cool in pan on rack.

makes 15 large to 24 small brownies.

let cool and store tightly wrapped.

(Enjoy the brownie recipe you heavily lidded chocolate addicts!)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Someone's in the Kitchen

Obviously I love food, but in browsing through my photos I noticed there is one thing I love nearly as much, and that's a nice kitchen. I'm certainly not talking one that has to be stainless steel and marble (though when we can all afford that, wouldn't it be nice?) What I love are the kitchens that have so seen the celebration of food and company, day in and day out, that they just look like another member of the family. The kitchens I love in my life are inextricably bound to the food memories they gave me. Here is my mom's kitchen, the daily ritual of very long, late morning breakfasts, my sister and her boyfriend reading the paper. One of my favorite things about my childhood kitchen (and most others) is the light. ahhh, so loverly.
This is my friend Thea's kitchen (that's Thea at the sink) I love the light and the blue curtain. Everyone was piling stuff all over the counter and making drinks and getting the place well worn in and messy, it was great.London! Staying with my friend Sean, at his friend's place in east London, they made potatoes and 'veg', with baked lemon chicken and wine. (or was this the day with roasted parsnips? mmm heaven) I was entranced by the light and the steam (as you can see here) It was a simple meal that seemed appropriately British, and I just watched from the couch as they calmly prepared it, chatting away at the counter.

Julien's kitchen! St. Mande. What can I say? cracking bread, half pulled apart baguette and cheese on the counter, popcorn popping on the stove for stringing on the christmas tree, French boys cooking pasta for 8 people making a mess, and a small cold glass of blood orange juice in the morning before anyone is awake...this is the first kitchen that felt like home to me in a foreign country. (and so far the only one!)
Yay echo park! Bright light coming in from the garden window and any assortment of fresh vegetables or fruit, known or unknown, that we can test, slice, suck, slurp, chomp and sample in the spread of culinary comraderie (and maybe a slice of toast with butter or jam) that is Thea's parent's kitchen. Love it.

OMG crepe parties. Laure's dad's Kitchen. What can I say? This says it all.

My sister Bridget lives in SF, needless to say for anyone who knows me, I absolutely adore it there. This was the day her Turkish boyfriend made a Turkish feast. He was wearing a dark green shirt cutting green scallions and I crowded the table deboning two hot, steaming chickens. He made zucchini fritters and white beans soaked in vinegar with onions and tomatos, swathed with bread soaking up the juices, and my sister made fresh roasted babaganoush from the electric stove top burners. I ran downstairs 3 times in the cold, approaching evening to the store on the corner to get ice, fresh parsley and other last minute additions. I have rarely been so content.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Goat Cheese

The Wonderful World of Chavrie

I have become very enamoured with "Chavrie", the spreadable goat cheese. My mom bought it on a whim, and I find it to be the perfect new staple for my many kitchens to come. If you place it on it's bottom, on the lid, and unhook the lid squeezing the opposite corners of it's semi-pyramid box, it opens like Collignon's shopkeeper's secret stashes in Amelie - TADAH! My god the cool of it, the density, the depth of it's mellow tart taste back pocketed in your's tremendous. I have taken to spreading it on toast for a morning meal, it's so bright and happily tanging, it's as it it's yogurt. I am quite so very fond of it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Simple Things - food as unexpected beauty

When I eat, I don't just enjoy the process of consumption. What matters to me nearly always as much, is what I see and how it makes me feel about my experience. Everywhere you look, there is art. Or more precisely, beauty in the details.