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Let’s open with the latter.
I would like to take a moment to talk about the Internet. It is a mysterious machinery I do not understand. I file it under the same category as radio, airplanes, and telephones. It may be not kosher to admit that in public, but I have no clue how those work. Nor do I care really. As long as they do their job!
What puzzles me about the Internet in particular today are those little hairy monkeys from my micro-world, and directly related to these pages. As any committed blogger, I check the stats every day to know who’s coming to visit, how they find ONE MORE BITE, what pages I get linked to, etc. I don’t really KNOW who reads it, relax, unless you decide to tell me about it in the form of a comment, send me an email, postcard or a new Audi TT (black, please).
What I do know is what phrases Internauts enter into their search engines (like google or yahoo) to find my silly page in the cyber world. Today for example, some horny hungry person, clearly lucking the time to cook on their own, decided to look for “sexy personal chefs” and so typed that into the google search. I’m flattered to have been found. However, just so I don’t get too cocky and my bra doesn’t pop from pride bubbling up in my chest, there’s another little flower here leading to my blog that reads: “kill it before it spreads”. Huh?
People look for Stefan Richter and that restaurant I used to work at, Da Vinci, and find their way over here. The “quinoa and brussels sprouts recipes” entry will also successfully lead you to my blog. If you want a “goat cheese cranberry stuffed chicken”, you’re in luck–there is my Chicken Cordon Blue recipe with these components described in detail among these pages. That makes sense. “Melissa Peterman nipples” or “drop crotch carrot men” don’t.
If you think I made those up, you so overestimate my creativity and wit. I take no credit for the above. Moreover, I beg for an explanation! How in the world do people who search for a “text on indian toilet” find a food blog?? Hello! Google people, talk to me!
I don’t know when and if I’ll get my hairy monkey problem resolved. That’s all for the SOUR part for today.
Now on to the SWEET thing. Why? Because sweet is GOOD. Sweet is necessary to keep balance in your food and then in your system. Sweet is one of the four basic flavors (along with salty, sour, and bitter) that are present in any complete dish. Nonetheless, it’s all about finding that fine balance in anything you do, cooking included. Well… duh.
My sweet suggestion for today are CARDAMOM POACHED APRICOTS STUFFED WITH MASCARPONE. Even though the apricot season is pretty much over, you can make this beautiful and sweet bite all year round, as we’re using dry fruit for the thing.
Once again, I lifted the idea from my handy book called “Small Bites” by Jennifer Joyce that I had referred to previously. Once again, I changed the recipe by an inch and a half after trying once and needing some improvement. I am a big advocate of a freedom in one’s kitchen. Don’t be enslaved to a recipe. Make it work for you instead.
To start, gather the following:
- dried apricots, about 8 oz package
- handful of seeds from crushed cardamom pods (ground cardamom will do, too)
- mascarpone cheese and goat cheese, 1-2 tbsp of each, softened
- fresh mint, chopped, about 1 tbsp worth
- juice of 1 lemon
- 3 tbsp raw cane sugar
- 1-2 cups of water
- 1/2 cup unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped.
In a small sauce pan heat together the water, sugar, lemon juice and cardamom. Toss the apricots in and let it all simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the fruit is soft and plumpy. Remove the the orange balls and let them cool.
In the meantime, mix both cheeses together along with mint. See, Jennifer’s recipe calls for Mascarpone only. However, after doing it her way, I was missing something. The goat cheese will give the whole thing a tang that will take your sweet bite into a different dimension. Also, I dare you to add just a pinch of ground cardamom into the mix. Just do it. It will be fine.
Take each apricot and using a paring knife make a small incision on one side, enough to scoop in a nugget of the cheese mixture. Now dip your stuffed fruit, cheese side down, into the crushed pistachios so they stick to the filling, thus covering up the entrance to the cave. (Yes, I’m a dork, I know.)
Such prepared Sweet Bites arrange in a single layer on a platter , or in an air-tight container, and store in a refrigerator for at least an hour so the cheese sets.
An hour later… VOILA!
Cute, right? And you know what else? SWEET!
Naked patches of dirt around our house, where there used to grow juicy grass, signaled it was time to get off our meatless diet. Last Sunday marked the monthniversary of our eating only combinations of a veg with another veg over a bowl of grain of some kind.
To celebrate, we invited a few friends over, all foodies, for a potluck dinner. Everybody brought a dish of their own making. Our dining table, barely standing straight under the weight of all the goods, bravely held on its head a giant casserole of Risotto, a glass bowl of Short Ribs with Wild Mushrooms (from Poland!), a tray of Armenian mini Pizzas and Pastry Rolls filled with Cheese. There was Shrimp Ceviche, mean Brussels Sprouts with Pine nuts, another dish of Rosemary Roasted Potatoes, Sauteed Zucchini with Mint Butter, and some Simple Green Salad for common sense. The menu was only complete with a platter the size of the Columbus Circle in New York City filled with THAI LAMB LARB of my creation. Here’s the satellite shot, for it were the only way to capture it whole:
I found the recipe for this colorful appetizer in my recently purchased book “Small Bites” by Jennifer Joyce. As the author explains, “larb” describes ground meat in Thai. She used pork for her dish, however I went with lamb. Shockingly, that’s pretty much the only change I applied to the recipe. (Yes, Mama Linda, for once I followed the instructions!)
Before I list all the ingredients, let me just say that if I were to ever make this again (as hardly ever do I repeat myself on a plate), I’d use BIBB LETTUCE instead of Romaine. The latter seems muscular enough to hold the filling, however its leaves are long and straight-ish. Bibb lettuce not only has a kick-ass name but also its leaves create small and sturdy cups that I imagine would be more practical with this dish.
Having said that, let’s rock & roll. Get yourself the following items:
- 3 stalks lemongrass
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil (I used coconut)
- 1 lb lean ground pork (lamb worked!)
- 1 tbsp soft brown sugar (raw cane variety was just as good)
- 1 sm red onion, finely diced
- 1 ripe but firm mango, diced
- 3 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, some chopped and some picked leaves for garnish
- 20 heart of Romaine lettuce leaves, chilled to serve (mark my words. I say BIBB!)
Remove the hard parts of the lemon grass and finely chop only the white, soft insides. Toss it into a saute pan with heated oil and stir fry it till soft over medium heat. Now get the fire going and add your larb. Cook it until crispy and brown. Remove from the heat when fully cooked (5 minutes or so), and set aside.
Quickly whip out a DRESSING using the following:
- 3 tbsp palm sugar (again, raw cane rocked!)
- 1 sm red chili pepper, deseeded and finely chopped (wahs your hands THOROUGHLY afterwards and under no circumstances touch your eyes, or nuts if a boy, with those fingers. Trust me!)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 2 tbsp fish sauce.
If you own a mortar and pestle, use it to crush the sugar, pepper, garlic and ginger together until they turn into a paste. Add the lime juice and fish sauce and mix together. In case you didn’t have the ancient tool, simply toss everything into a small jar, close it tight and shake like a mad person until sugar’s dissolved and all the guys inside are seriously dizzy, but happy.
Pour the dressing over the still warm meat, add your onion, mango, and cilantro, toss about and scoop some of the filling onto the prepared lettuce leaves. Done!
The dinner, just like a Thai wedding, went on for days. Or at least it felt like it, especially when we collected all the empty wine bottles in the end.
Jason’s and my celebration of meat went on into the week, and was culminated with our last night’s visit at ANIMAL. This LA restaurant has earned its reputation with the rich meat dishes it serves. It was also featured in various culinary magazines as well as the Food Network, or else known as my televised bible. Can you imagine a better place to PIG OUT? Literally.
We started with a few appetizers to share:
1. Carrot Salad with Parsnip Chips, Green Goddess Dressing and Avocado
2. Hamachi Tostada with Herbs, Fish Sauce Vinaigrette and Peanuts
3. Lamb Meatballs over Golden Rice with Green Garbanzos & Creme Fraiche.
Everything was phenomenal, but the meatballs just blew our minds. It sounds almost like an oxymoron, but those meaty balls were fluffy, almost airy, so light and delicate. Amazing!
Then the Entrees arrived. Jason ordered Catfish with Gold Rice Succotash, drizzled with Tabasco Butter and topped with King Crab. Every bite melted in his mouth. I can verify it was true, for I have sunk my fork into his plate for examination.
My main course was quite different. I asked for Crispy Rabbit Legs with Peas, Dandelion and Meyer Lemon Aioli. The meat just fell off the bone upon the slightest touch of my utensil. It was cooked to perfection and the flavors did not disappoint. HOWEVER. Yes, there is a “however”. For my liking, the meal was too heavy. There was so much sauce poured all over the meat you could hardly see the Guest of Honor peeking through it. The rabbit, that pour bastard, was DEEP FRIED, I guess the best method for that crisp texture. It’s not the kind of food I enjoy on weekdays, or even a weekend.
The feast did not end there, oh no! We had to try their famous dessert of Bacon Chocolate Crunch Bar dressed with Anglaise. While their Panna Cotta did not kick flip-flops off my feet, and one taste was enough, I could hardly stop myself from stealing the chocolaty bites finished with bacon bits from Jason’s plate. Bacon was written all over that bar, but also it was married to rich and velvety chocolate, and it was a Holy Union I tell you. Alleluia.
After sampling their food it was clear to us why the two chefs from Florida, who created the restaurant, called it ANIMAL. The food was superb, and it stood for its name, but when the dinner was over I considered another meatless month, just for a moment.
And then I found a leftover patch of grass behind our garage.