"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: Noma

easter . . .


French macarons . . .

French macarons . . .

G. and I are enjoying a quiet, sunny day today. The kids are visiting in-laws and so we will have a quiet day and a simple supper tonight. Right now, I am listening to Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and feeling like snapping my fingers to the music–it’s so much fun to listen to it! Earlier, I went to the piano and played the 2nd movement of the C minor Fantasie by Mozart. The makeshift wooden board that G. placed over the pedal worked well with my leg that still has a heavy cast on it.

Last night, with absolutely nothing to watch on TV (unless you wanted to tune into a four-and a half hour view of the “Ten Commandments”,) we decided to watch “Amadeus” the 1984 movie which won 8 Academy Awards. It’s a little grating to me with the Mozart character’s neighing all the time (from Tourette’s Syndrome)? But F. Murray Abraham (who won an Oscar for best actor in this best picture) plays Salieri, a rival court composer whose works are banal compared to Mozart’s and who is obsessed both by God’s gift of talent to Mozart and his equally strong belief that God has shortchanged him of same. This assignation of “blame” to God for Salieri’s shortcomings is one of the amusing conceits of the film. Reading about Salieri online, he is purported to have taught the likes of Beethoven, Schubert and Liszt so he must not have been as lightweight a musician as the movie, “Amadeus,” makes him out to be.

Anyhow, seeing the period instruments (since G. specializes in all things piano) is a treat to watch. I was also reminded again hearing excerpts of Mozart’s great Mass in C minor with its rousing opening “Kyrie” how great a composition it is. So, I listened to it this a.m. before segue-ing to the more upbeat and laid back jazz of Dave Brubeck’s quartet and Paul Desmond playing saxophone. Did you know that it was actually Desmond who composed “Take Five?” I didn’t until recently when I watched Clint Eastwood’s masterful biographical DVD of Dave Brubeck which we saw on PBS a couple of years ago.

For lunch today, I’m going to heat up some frozen Korean dumplings with chives and make a piquant dipping sauce of Chinese black vinegar, Japanese seasoned rice vinegar, Ohsawa soy sauce, sesame oil, chopped scallions and grated fresh ginger root. Afterwards, we’ll try a tiny sliver of the dark chocolate sour cream cake that I made yesterday afternoon. I had to bake it ten more minutes than the recipe called for and even then, the beautifully rounded middle sunk when cooled so it looked like a miniature tube cake!

I also had difficulty broiling a miso eggplant dish for dinner last night–you couldn’t chew it and it felt and tasted like wet cardboard. I even tried frying it afterwards but to no avail. Then, I remembered the pizza stone the other night didn’t seem hot enough even though heated to 500 degrees. And that instead of the pizza taking 3-5 minutes to cook, it still wasn’t done at 15 minutes and I had to turn on the broiler to finish it. So, dear reader, it occurred to me that perhaps my stove/oven isn’t heating up properly. (DUH!) It’s about a dozen years old and I cook a lot, so it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s losing its legs, heat-wise that is.

So, I dug out my oven thermometer and will be double-checking whether it preheats to 425 degrees when I get ready to roast the rack of lamb that we’re going to have for dinner tonight. I use Julia Child’s recipe for a mustard (Grey Poupon Country Dijon), olive oil, soy sauce, fresh rosemary chopped and lots of minced garlic–the marinade coating applied for the room-temperature lamb before going into the oven. The lamb on the rack looks miniscule so I’m hopeful that there will be something tasty there when it comes out of the dubious oven.

better nomaYesterday, I don’t know what came over me–perhaps it was re-reading a cohort of British cookery books in the last few days–I decided to cull out and reorganize my bookshelves, one whole section of which is dedicated to food. One of the shelves now includes a set of Terence Conran, Roald Dahl, Jane Garmey and Time-Life volumes on making galantines, terrines, meat pies, trifles and aspic with eggs. In this group, I rediscovered the absolutely wonderful simple and yet appealing recipes in Nigel Slater’s cookery books. Slater’s recipe for roasting chicken wings suffused with fresh lemons and cracked pepper until the wings are caramelized to the baking sheet is one I’m going to try next week, I think. SLATER

Even though they were somewhat pricey, I went through some books yesterday that had recipes I know I would never try (too conventional, complicated or took too much work/ingredients) so they went into the carton that will be donated to our local library. That is the only way I can justify ridding myself of books–which is to recycle them at an institution that will either catalog them or sell them in their bookstore.

Back to the reorganization, the revised bookshelves also hold a section of what I call “Celebrity Chefs”: David Chang’s “Momofuku”, Rene Redzepi’s “Noma”,Thomas Keller’s”French Laundry”, Daniel Boulud, Stanley Tucci, Jane Grigson, Judy Rodgers’ Zuni Cafe Cookbook and the River Cottage series by that guy who has an un-spellable name.

On the top shelf (for most usage) are short stacks of cookbooks featuring Asian noodles, tofu, dim sum, Chinese snacks, Bento box and Japanese Zen/Temple cookery. There’s also a smaller section down below on macrobiotic and raw vegetable ideas. Right now, I think I’ll be cooking more recipes out of the Nigel Slater books than anything else. Not only are the books now better organized, there’s now room for more!better asian

The photos above and below are of an order of French macarons that I made and had sent to C. and her husband for Easter. She teaches high-school French so these little treats seemed like the perfect thing for Easter. She’s going to share them with her in-laws after their luncheon today. The funny thing about them is that I ordered them from a baker on Etsy (one of my favorite places to find homemade things,) and in finalizing the purchase, I noticed a Chinese name in their email address. Sure enough, she was trained in France to bake these macaron specialties but like me, she’s Chinese. I meet many artists who are Asian on this site. And in the oddest of places too–like with these macarons. They’re made of egg whites and an almond paste filling–somewhat like marzipan, I think. They arrived in time and C. said they shared one macaron before bringing them to the Easter luncheon and it was delicious!macarons 2

rack of lamb with mustard, rosemary, garlic glaze . . .

rack of lamb with mustard, rosemary, garlic glaze . . .

In addition to the mustard/rosemary rack of lamb medium rare (hopefully,) we’re having artichokes with a curry mayonnaise as a starter, the lamb, small yukon potatoes crisped in butter and garlic salt, and parsnips (G.’s favorite vegetable.) And for dessert, the dark chocolate sour cream cake with chocolate frosting.

So, here’s hoping you have also had an enjoyable day filled with reading the paper, Easter egg hunts and some nice wine and tasty food!


noma . . .

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Noma, but it’s reputedly the “best restaurant in the world,” located in Copenhagen, Denmark and run by a young chef named Rene Redzepi. My daughter, M., surprised me with a gift of his latest publications by Phaidon, a journal, photos and recipe book of a year spent developing new recipes for the restaurant after being named “the best. . .” for three years running.

His initial offering, a large album book called “Noma” was already in my bookshelves, my having opted to purchase it when it first came out due to the unusual and unusually beautiful photographs of food that you could not ever fathom tasting. Even so, I find it rather inspiring to read and look at, if only because it is so independent of mind in the development of flavor and taste which is supposed to equal, food.

Maybe it’s whimsical of me to partake in the experimentation that this kind of culinary pursuit takes, but it appeals to my sense of other-li-ness that I welcome in anything that is tried and true. I mean, of course, people can go and treat themselves to a tasting menu at Daniel Boulud’s restaurants in NYC. or, for that matter, go ramen tasting at Momofuku, David Chang’s hangout that is now being challenged by other ramen spring-ups all over town.

In fact, Redzepi writes fondly about a visit by David Chang to his restaurant when Rene’s second child was born–the very same weekend–and he seems much more interested in how Chang unpacks his cooking knives than belaboring the fact that he’s become a father of two at the same time. It’s an inside look at how cooks, or at least this cook, thinks, nay, is absolutely obsessed with developing something novel and delicious.

In the Journal that Redzepi keeps, he is alarmed that the restaurant is spending more than it is bringing in. For a few months in a row, the ink runs red. Then, he begins to gather the facts that:

a.  They serve 20 dishes to each customer.

b.  Each dish has at least five ingredients–most of which require advance preparation.

c.  There are 111 purveyors from whom they buy supplies; keep track of, pay and store ingredients from.

d.  They also forage, clean and store a huge amount of ingredients.

e.  Sometimes they are surprised by their suppliers who bring in fresh snails or seafood on a Saturday that is inconvenient because it won’t hold until Monday and the menus are already set for the weekend.

f.   Besides preparing menus of 35 plus dishes for 500 customers a week; there is a staff of 70 to feed and clean up after everyday.

One late night after the flow of new ideas from the 35 cooks has gone well, Redzepi noticed a foul smell in one of the rooms downstairs. Someone has neglected to clean fish remains in one of the sinks. Another area was unscrubbed. In a good mood, he starts to clean it up by himself and then blows a fuse, calling every cook at 1:30 in the morning to gather in the kitchens, the whole crew cleaning up EVERYTHING until the place sparkles. This kind of story about how nudging a group to a higher level of teamwork can at the same time also result in backsliding for the most basic of tasks (cleaning things up after yourselves) is apocryphal and amusing.

And Rene Redzepi is only in his mid-thirties. Honestly, I can’t see myself cooking reindeer moss. Or cooking something to resemble or remind one of reindeer moss. But the very stark, austerely beautiful platings that adorn his books, and that same aura which permeates his restaurant are a treat and a treatise for one’s imagination.

So, today, after my hospital ankle appointment when the cast was taken off so that the sutures could be removed, then a new cast put on for another three weeks, I was a little more restrained than usual when we went to do the grocery shopping afterwards. I picked out a couple of endives and a radicchio to make a bitter salad with a honeycrisp apple, walnuts and golden raisins. Maybe a little sour cream and honey in the vinaigrette. Bunches of beets to roast, leeks to cook with potatoes for a creamy Sunday soup; parsnips to accompany a small boeuf bourguinon cooked in the new pot that our friend, B. gave us last week, with some tiny yukon gold potatoes, boiled, sliced in half and slowly browned with a little garlic salt and dried parsley. These ideas are in no way anywhere close to let’s say, experimenting with lamb’s brains but, c’est la vie!

What I have taken away from these armchair adventures of food developed in the cold and wintry land in Scandanavia is to concentrate on flavors, small portions, beautiful settings, eating less, eating better, having fun trying new ways with old habits that still work. All this from reading a few books! Voila!