Saturday, April 29, 2006

The ice cream project: green chile mint ice cream

The serrano chile in this recipe doesn't make the ice cream taste very hot. It gives it an underscore flavor of green chile to set off the ice cream's predominant mintiness but it doesn't assault the mouth. Mint ice cream made with actual leaves of mint is a totally different species from ice cream made with mint extract or, worse, artificial flavoring. The mint leaves taste much brighter, livelier, and I daresay, mintier. Even straining the leaves out of the custard mix, as I did here, their fresh taste is instantly recognizable.

I would love to claim originality for this combination but I'm hardly the first to think of it. Southwestern cooks pair green chiles with more or less everything, including sweet stuff like chocolate. There is a recipe for serrano-mint ice cream that I found here that is pretty much what I decided to make. There used to be a place in Madison called Chocolate Coyote whose signature ice cream flavor was a combination of chocolate, cinnamon, and cayenne. Of course, the mint-green chile combination is also familiar from southeast Asian cooking, as is the combination of hot and sweet flavors as in pad Thai and mango/papaya salad. These two dishes were my introduction to Thai food (Thai Shan Inn, Eglinton West, Toronto, early 1990s) and I'm sure that the hot-sweet combination, which I had never before tried in such an intense form (Big Red chewing gum might be the nearest thing), was what sold me on it right away.

The procedure I followed is the same as many of the other ice creams I have made: steep the flavoring ingredients in cream, then use the flavored cream to make the custard. Cook, chill, churn, freeze, eat.

I used one big handful of mint leaves, chopped, and one serrano chile, seeds included, minced. The rest of the ingredients were my standard French custard mixture: 9 oz. sugar, 3 cups half and half, 1 cup heavy cream, and eight egg yolks. I steeped the mint and chile for about twenty minutes, bringing the half and half to a simmer and then killing the heat. I strained the green stuff out and proceeded as usual from there. You could leave it in but I prefer not to have little bits of chewy, vegetal, green stuff in my ice cream spoiling the smooth texture.

I'm thinking about making ice cream one of these days that has a lot more heat, that really makes the snot run from your nose and the tears from your eyes. I don't love or crave that crazy hot food experience but I do kind of get off on it once in awhile.

My other ice creams:

  • Egg ice cream

  • Black sesame ice cream

  • Rice ice cream

  • Cardamom ice cream

  • Sour cream anise ice cream

  • Caramel ice cream

  • Apples and honey ice cream

  • Watermelon sour cream sherbet

  • Mojito cream cheese ice cream

  • Peach frozen yogurt

  • Oatmeal raisin ice cream

  • Mango cream cheese ice cream

  • Mocha ice cream

  • Berry buttermilk sherbet

  • Gingersnap ice cream
  • Friday, April 28, 2006

    Harlequin Bakery

    I should probably have waited until tasting these little treats before blogging about them, but I'm waiting to share them with my dining companions after dinner. I picked them up today at Harlequin Bakery, which is adjacent to Coquette Cafe. While there, I had the pleasure of meeting (accosting, more like it) the chef Sandy D'Amato, of Coquette, Harlequin, and the amazing and eponymous Sanford Restaurant. He was a bit shy and much shorter than I am. I told him how much I love his food. Ordinarily I believe you should leave famous people alone, but some kind of force took over me in the moment. The chef offered me a sample of fresh bread. Wish I could tell you what kind, but I was distracted. After getting back into the car, I started to think of all kinds of smart things I might have said to him.

    Clockwise from top left: blueberry hazelnut rugel, bunny cookie (shortbread I think) for our little bunny lover, pistachio macaroon (they have several flavors of these), and cinnamon, caramel, and vanilla marshmallows.

    UPDATE: Everything was delicious but especially the macaroon. I want to return to Harlequin tomorrow to sample all of their other flavors.

    Thursday, April 27, 2006

    "An alternative strategy of utopian potlatch"

    The Tactical Ice Cream Unit dispenses progressive politics along with frozen treats. In its own words:
    The TICU emerges at a time when most channels of distribution, communication, and social interaction are mediated and constrained by the fervor of financial exchange. Incorporating an alternative strategy of utopian potlatch, the Tactical Ice Cream Unit is envisioned primarily as a mobile distribution center for ice cream and information.
    Look for them if you're around Southern California. (Via Boing Boing).


    Take the Poverty Line Challenge: for one week, stick to a poverty line budget, determined by figuring out what someone working for minimum wage in your area is able to spend on food. In the words of its creator:
    I'm hoping to use the Poverty Line Challenge as an opportunity to tease out some of the decisions and factors that play into the food choices we make.
    I don't know if I can subject the people I am responsible to feed to this, but I love the idea of eating well on the really cheap. In general I try to get the most from the least, but sticking to a strict budget would be an extra, well, challenge. (This one is yang to the yin of eat local.)


    Questions about your vagina? Send them to TBTAM.


    In enthusiastic defiance of TV-Turnoff Week 2006, we have been watching loads and loads, oodles upon oodles, of TV. Tuesday was one of the best small-screen evenings in recent memory, with hot, hot episodes of Idol, Gilmore and Veronica (and a Thief episode still on the TiVo). We saved the Idol ep and have been showing it to the little man at every break in our usual Max & Ruby marathon. He tries to sing along (it sounds more like groaning; if you didn't know him you might think he was complaining about something) and passionately holds his arms outstretched during Paris's rendition of "The Way We Were." We spare him the agony of the now departed Pickler's "Unchained Melody" and he doesn't watch the parts with the judges or, worse, the commercials.

    The off-with-your-TV proponents in our neighborhood have offered the kids at the elementary school this incentive: go to the public library after school instead of home to veg out in front of the tube, and the librarian will give you a sticker that says, "I visited my public library." This can be redeemed for a cookie at a local bakery. So the people who think that television can make you fat are rewarding kids for not watching television by...feeding them cookies. Like Smirnoff said: What a Country!

    Tuesday, April 25, 2006


    As The Gurgling Cod noticed the other day, this week's NYT mag Consumed column explores the phenomenon of the adorable wine bottle. Megamarts now sell lots of fermented grape juice and much of it appeals to its prospective drinker with cute critters on the label. The best example is Yellow Tail, the Australian brand with the hopping wallaby (right). Aside from the critters, there are assorted other items that catch our eyes, from curvy women to French chateaux.

    It occurred to me at the supermarket today that it's not only wine bottles that woo us with their little pictures. Bottles of beer and spirits (not to mention boxes of breakfast cereal and bags of rice) offer up mascots too. Many of them make you go, "Awww," but some of them aren't at all adorable. Can you tell the wines from the other potent potables? Of the following eleven images, at least five are wine and at least five are beer; some are domestic and some are imported. Bonus points for naming the wine or beer, and even more bonus points for identifying the place where it is made. Answer (or just guess) in the comments.












    Sunday, April 23, 2006


    (I was going to leave something like this as a comment on Ben's blog, but then I decided it was more of a post than a comment.)

    When you ask your fellow diners "What are you having?" are you merely curious, perhaps just making chitchat, or is there more to it? Positive Anymore tells us that in Chicago (where I type this morning; we are here for my grandmother-in-law's 90th birthday party) it is considered gauche if two people order the same thing. PA calls this a "strong cultural taboo." Are these Chicago people totally wackydoodles? E is from Chicago and she says taboo is too strong a word, but when I told her about PA's post she looked intrigued and didn't deny it. If it is true that Chicagoans avoid duplicating orders, then the waiter at the Chicago Chop House where my buddies and I ate last spring must have been able to tell we were tourists when all four of us ordered New York strips, medium rare. As I recall, the waiter seemed a bit disappointed that our order was so easy, but maybe there was a tinge in his response of disapproval or pity. Two might be bad, but four is beyond hope.

    There are times when anyone might avoid duplicating orders. Let's say you're dining with people you don't know well who you're trying to impress. First person: "I'll have the grilled salmon." Second: "I would like the seared scallops." You're next to order. Let's say you were considering either the salmon, the scallops, or a sexy Alaskan halibut with buttermilk mashed potatoes. Aren't you now leaning toward the the halibut? It adds variety to the moment and it won't seem like you're just copying someone else. But if you are weighing salmon vs. halibut, embarrassment doesn't enter into it. It's more like, the first person filled the salmon niche so you're going to fill the halibut niche. You want to distinguish yourself from the others where possible and appropriate and you want to impress them with your originality and good taste. (That also might be a good reason to avoid ordering something unusual, you know, say, tiger penis soup.) Still, if your heart is set on salmon, you'll go for salmon.

    There is a flipside, though. Sometimes there's a social advantage in having the same thing as someone. Two friends go out for lunch and the first orders a Cobb salad. The second pauses for a moment, thinking thinking thinking, then perks up and says, "I'll have the same." It's not as big a deal as friends getting matching tattoos, but that's the idea. Or you are in a restaurant famous for a particular dish, like the corned beef at Katz's deli. If you're from Chicago, do you choose pastrami if the first order at the table is corned beef? (Of course, Katz's is the site of the scene in the movie in which the punch line is "I'll have what she's having.") Do Chicagoans try to be the first to order so that no one will steal their choice? I haven't observed this in my Chicago experiences.

    Maybe you've been wondering: do people in Chicago share their food? If there is a regional norm of sharing, then distributing orders makes sense. If I order salmon after you order it, neither of us gets to try the halibut. Yet I don't think people in Chicago share their food any more than people anyplace else. My preference is to try as many things as possible and to facilitate this I will gladly pass my plate across the table in exchange for yours. People like me are the minority, though. In Western style restaurants I have rarely seen people passing dishes around the table. Even in Chicago, I'm guessing the taboo of keeping your fork off of someone else's plate is stronger than the putative duplicating-orders taboo.

    I like to plan ahead when I go out to eat. When I'm going to a restaurant for dinner, I might start thinking about what to have when I wake up in the morning. Now that menus are often available online, I sometimes mull my options days or weeks ahead, even if it's a restaurant I've never been to. I might ask E what she's having at two in the afternoon even though dinner's not till eight. (She never has an answer.) But I almost never make up my mind until the moment that I speak my order. When a fellow diner asks me what I'm having, I might say, "I'm thinking I might order x or y, but I'm also considering a, b, c, d, and e...and f, g, h, i, j, and k also sound good." And really, it is hard enough to narrow the menu down to only half of the options. I can deal with huge menus at places like Japanese restaurants that serve sushi in addition to fusion entrees, tempura, teriyaki, Korean barbecue, appetizers, etc., only by arbitrarily deciding not to consider certain pages at all, basically by pretending that some of my options don't exist. And then in the moment, when the server looks me in the eye, I try to cleanse my mind of all thoughts and speak directly from the depths of the unconscious.

    This review in today's NYT sums things up pretty well:
    "When you can eat just about anything nature has to offer," Michael Pollan writes in his thoughtful, engrossing new book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma," "deciding what you should eat will inevitably stir anxiety."

    Thursday, April 20, 2006

    The ice cream project: rice ice cream

    Rice ice cream, more than one hundred years old, is Italian. Gelato di riso is still served in gelato parlors in Italy and perhaps elsewhere, though none I have been to anytime lately. I have had in mind to make this ever since the triumph of oatmeal ice cream many months ago. It has only taken me until now to do it because the cold weather killed my ice cream drive. Now that spring is back, so is the project.

    The grains above are carnaroli, one of three great Italian rices. (The others are arborio and vialone nano, the latter still untried by me but the favorite of many an Italian peasant, says the internet.) All are good for making risotto, a dish that calls on rice to give up some of its starch to become, in effect, sauce. I wanted to use a risotto rice for this ice cream so that it would lend some starchy thickness to the custard base. I also happened to have carnaroli rice in the pantry, and if I had had arborio I would have used it instead.

    Liddell and Weir caution against adding too many additional flavors to a rice ice cream. 19th century recipes that they describe contain herbs, spices and fruit. Better, say L&W, to let the flavor of rice shine through. This sounded like a plan.

    The procedure here is not much different from making French-style vanilla. The first step is to cook the rice in sweetened dairy. Because I don't think it's possible for ice cream to be too rich, I resisted the Italian impulse to use milk in place of cream. I simmered the rice, half a cup, in three cups of half and half to which I added nine ounces of white sugar and the seeds scraped out of a Madagascar vanilla bean. I also added the deseeded pods. (Anyone think I should splurge on Tahitian or Mexican beans for making ice cream? The comments are yours.)

    I simmered this mixture over the lowest possible heat for about an hour. Most rice ice cream recipes call for this step to be done in the microwave or over a double boiler. I didn't take that precaution. Meanwhile I whipped six egg yolks until pale. When the rice seemed just about cooked, still a touch chalky in the center, I tempered in the eggs and cooked to 170, which took only a second. Then I added a cup of heavy cream, fished out the vanilla pods, and put it in the fridge to chill. I cannot say why it took the rice so long to cook but it didn't bother me particularly and I'm not really dying to know the answer.

    It was very thick when chilled and only needed to churn for five minutes. I really should experiment with still freezing, i.e., putting the custard mixture in the freezer without freezing in the ice cream machine. I don't know that churning for five minutes really introduces enough air to make much of a difference in texture. (Some still freezing techniques involve mixing the custard after an hour or two in a food processor or standing mixer, which seems like a needless hassle if you have an ice cream machine.)

    It should be obvious that this ice cream would be good without the rice. Perhaps it would be better without it. But the rice, which is crunchy (it's both al dente and frozen), does have its own subtle and pleasant flavor. When you eat it, first the ice cream melts in your mouth, then the vanilla custard part goes down your throat, and then you are left with cold kernels of sweet, firm carnaroli rice against the tip of your tongue. This sensation is more than worth the small trouble it takes to whip the stuff up.

    My other ice creams:

  • Egg ice cream

  • Black sesame ice cream

  • Green chile mint ice cream

  • Cardamom ice cream

  • Sour cream anise ice cream

  • Caramel ice cream

  • Apples and honey ice cream

  • Watermelon sour cream sherbet

  • Mojito cream cheese ice cream

  • Peach frozen yogurt

  • Oatmeal raisin ice cream

  • Mango cream cheese ice cream

  • Mocha ice cream

  • Berry buttermilk sherbet

  • Gingersnap ice cream
  • Tuesday, April 18, 2006

    Play time

    This playground is at Atwater school in Shorewood. The little man loves to run across the blue bridge to get to the top of the slide. When he was less sure on his feet this made me anxious but I've seen him cross it a hundred times now and I know he can do it.

    A good playground needs not just good and safe stuff but also variety and space for running around. It also helps if the surroundings are pleasant. This isn't the prettiest park in town, but it's one of our most regular destinations.

    This season the little man wants to swing on the big swings. I'm having no success teaching him to pump his legs to get himself to go high. That skill might me a year or two away. He accepts that to have a fast and thrilling ride he will have to keep going on the baby swings but I can tell there's a bit of disappointment there. He can't just graduate to the next level and put the baby swings behind him. He's only two but he doesn't really know it.

    The playground was empty today. We were there from 4:30 until 5:30. The temperature was around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, there wasn't much wind, the sun was bright and casting long shadows.

    Sunday, April 16, 2006

    Weekend notes

    Bittman's Best Recipes in the World, page 98, shrimp with garlic. A Spanish tapa classic, says the minimalist.

    I think you should get this book so I won't give you the whole recipe, but the basic idea is:
    -Heat a lot of olive oil with a lot of garlic and some chiles.
    -Cook shrimp in this mixture.
    -Eat while they're still warm with bread to dip in the sauce.

    It might sound like practically nothing, but it's insanely good.


    Ordinarily I pay almost no attention to how much money movies take in at the box office unless it is summertime, during which I participate in a movie pool to try to win money by predicting how much money movies will take in at the box office. If Scary Movie 4, which apparently has taken $41 million this weekend, had been slated for release between Memorial Day and Labor Day I would be loudly cursing the moviegoing public right now instead of stroking my chin calmly and wondering what this might portend. (I have seen none of the Scary Movies, btw, but my sources on SM4 (i.e., the TV Guide podcast) told me that it was the least impressive of the series. $41 million was less than SM3 earned its first weekend, believe it or not, so it should have come as no surprise.)


    There is now a second blogger in Milwaukee who writes about cooking: meet Yulinka. She might have inspired me to make cheese, which is a project I have contemplated now and then. For many months I have envied places like the Bay Area and New York City for having their own communities of local food bloggers. I'm not sure if two makes a community and perhaps there are others I don't know about, but there are at least twice as many as there used to be, which sounds good to me.


    Here's my newest workout playlist. It's around thirty minutes long, which is a standard duration on the ellipticals.

    1. Bouncing Around the Room, Phish
    2. My Old School, Steely Dan
    3. Asleep on a Sunbeam, Belle & Sebastian
    4. For Once in My Life, Stevie Wonder
    5. We Both Go Down Together, The Decemberists
    6. Oliver's Army, Elvis Costello
    7. July Jones, The New Pornographers
    8. Cinnamon Girl, Neil Young
    9. For You, Bruce Springsteen

    General principles of the workout mix:
    1. nothing slow
    2. every song makes you smile


    Tanqueray No. 10 gin makes a nice Martini. Stir, don't shake. Give each drink a good half ounce of vermouth, not just a pathetic misting. Garnish with a regular old pimento-stuffed Manzanilla olive. One olive is enough; three are a snack. Drink with pleasure and abandon.

    I confess a desire to try those "tipsy" olives that are twice as expensive as the regular ones but the price just seems extravagant. Every time I see them I pick up a jar and every time I put it back on the shelf. Anyone out there prepared to sell me on them?

    Thursday, April 13, 2006

    Pacific Northwest gefilte fish and...

    When she used to visit family in Oregon, my Bubbe apparently used to make gefilte fish with salmon. I made it yesterday for Passover, much like this, except with King salmon instead of the usual whitefish and pike. This time I didn't bother making a fish stock first. Instead I made a vegetable stock with fennel and leeks.

    PNW gefilte doesn't come across as a novelty act at all, but if you have never had gefilte fish and are eager to try it, I would urge you to begin with the traditional recipe. Whether white or pink, gefilte fish is served, of course, with fresh beet horseradish.

    (Today is the first day of Passover, and some of my more observant readers might think it's just not right to be posting to a blog about yontif food on yontif. Contradictions abound.)

    Now about Passover television: chez Haverchuk we were thrilled to see Bucky leave the Idol show but very concerned about our boy Elliott Yamin, stuck again among the bottom three contestants. We learned last night during the interviews with the contestants' nearest and dearest that Elliot loves his mama and his mama loves him. We already knew this but it doesn't hurt to be reminded.

    Tuesday, April 11, 2006

    And how big are your carrots?

    Each of these babies is longer than my forearm and weighs more than a pound.

    They're going in a tsimes just as soon as I can get them out of the little man's hands. He is using them as musical instruments: saxophone, guitar, xylophone. A regular-size carrot is a flute and I'm instructed to play it. We're doing his new favorite song, "Waltzing Matilda." Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, you'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me...

    Monday, April 10, 2006

    Delicious and nutritious

    For lunch today I took a frittata to school to eat at my desk. Usually on days that I eat at school, I take a sandwich. Sometiemes a dish in a plastic container than can be microwaved. But a frittata! I got the idea from the Italian movie Bicycle Thieves. Maria packs Ricci and Bruno frittate to take for lunch. And those guys really work; I just stand in front of a bunch of people and talk.

    My frittata, leftover from yesterday's brunch, originally contained 11 eggs (cracked and whipped by the little man), half a pound of carmelized salmon nuggets* pressed into flakes by my fingers, a handful of chives, salt, and perhaps five ounces of Montrachet goat cheese, crumbled. I cooked it first on the stove in a cheap, nonstick skillet filmed with olive oil, just like Rachael Ray, and then under the broiler for a few minutes with two layers of foil wrapped around the plastic handle. Safety-first types might warn against broiling with a plastic handle, even wrapped in foil, but the handle doesn't really go under the broiler and in a few years of making frittate this way no harm has come to me or my handle. If this really worries you, get a pan with a metal handle.

    I have only one complaint about this dish: the chives seem to float to the top instead of distributing themselves evenly throughout. I don't mind it this way, I just wish I knew what to do about it.

    One quarter of this big eggy pie was plenty for my lunch but I did miss having carbs. A roll would be nice next time.

    Room temperature is a good temperature for a frittata.


    File under: please, no! Restaurant receipts with nutritional info (via USFP).

    Sweet sushi, a how-to.

    *From Sendik's on Silver Spring, where they smoke fish in house. This is basically seasoned hot-smoked salmon. They also have good smoked whitefish, a topic for another post.

    Friday, April 07, 2006

    Catching up

    Since you are probably not all that interested in the details of my blogging identity crisis, I will be brief about it. After going to a conference in Vancouver I became energized to pursue scholarly pursuits, even during the times of day (early evening) when I had previously been most eager to blog. Then a couple of weeks later I got the flu and was out of commission for four or five days. Around the same time my camera went on the blink. The broken part is the LCD display. It still takes pictures but it's essentially impossible to adjust the settings or to frame shots using the display, which is one of the best things about a digital camera. After getting over the flu my blogging time got swallowed up by television. I seem to be watching more now than I did a few months ago: The Sopranos, Big Love, Thief, Grey's Anatomy, Everwood (hey, Gregory Smith/Efram is interviewed in this week's TV Guide podcast), New Adventures of Old Christine, Sons and Daughters, Idol, The Muppet Show season one on DVD. In general, my enthusiasms wax and wane and cooking has been a waning enthusiasm. Various other things have been filling its place, temporarily I'm pretty sure. I still cook all the time but I've been finding excuses to make easy, quick things from the repertoire rather than explore and experiment as I sometimes do.

    I have always been a bit unsure about what kind of blog this should be, whether it should be only food or a mishmash of whatever I feel like writing about. For a while there it was only food, but right now I'm leaning toward mishmash. Not being completely clear about my vision for Haverchuk brought on a kind of paralysis, I suppose. As well, there was a time a few months ago when blogging consumed more of my moment-by-moment thinking than it should have and it was a bit of a relief to be free of that feeling. But I also have missed the experience of sharing with all of you and have been eager to resume it. I also miss the kind of writing I do here, which takes a different voice from other writing that I do.

    What follows are some blips on my radar screen. More, I hope, to come soon.

    -I've been reading The Da Vinci Code. I almost never read books like it so I can't say if what I find annoying and fascinating is typical of popular pageturners or specific to it. Annoying: flat characters (esp. the hero, Robert Langdon); overly obvious italicized passages in which characters' thoughts are verbalized (e.g., There must be something here!); didactic passages explaining arcane tidbits about Church history, goddess worship, the Knights Templar, etc., written in a dull encyclopedia style. Fascinating: a clever plot structure of constant twists, surprises, and reversals; a far-fetched but intriguing premise about Jesus and Mary Magdalene having been married; the use of settings like the Louvre and well-known artworks like The Last Supper (the cliche is to say that these things are like characters). The book ostensibly has a feminist message (to explain it would spoil much of the fun of reading) but at the same time it has only one female character and she is always figured as receiving men's knowledge, most often depending on their skill and action for her survival. I fault it for this but it hasn't gotten too much in the way of my pleasure. Things that some might find corny, like basing a plot around a quest for the holy grail, seem to me to be just the way you tell this kind of story. The book seems to deserve its success and I'm looking forward to the movie, though I don't know if Audrey Tautou is right for Sophie. I don't have anyone better in mind, though. Would she have to be French?

    -American Idol is compelling in spite of its horrible music. Every week someone insists, "This is a singing competition." Perhaps, but it's also a personality competition. What seems most engaging about the show is the way it encourages us to judge not just the contestants, but also the audience's judgment of them. I cannot stand Kellie Pickler, the vapid southern girl who thought Simon said "mink" when he called her a "saucy minx" and who didn't know that the L is silent in "salmon." But I keep thinking about how appealing she must be to so many viewers, who week after week call to vote for her. Who are they? What is it they like about her? What is wrong with them? I predict she will go far, though she has much less talent than some of her competitors. Talent is only part of the mix. Also: Is it a coincidence that the bottom three on country music week were two black girls and a Jewish boy who thinks he's Stevie Wonder? Next week is the songs of Queen. I anticipate considerable misery.

    -Jonathan Safran Foer exposes kosher slaughter as inhumane. I admire artists who take on causes for being socially engaged, but they also have a hard time convincing me that they're worth listening to on matters outside their expertise. That said, who is opposed to the humane treatment of animals?

    -Little Sister on the Katie Couric story: "It's like the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn!" Poor Little Sister.

    -I haven't cooked any terribly delicious food lately. The closest I came was last week with some mussels. Mussels are affordable ($3.50/lb at the Milwaukee Public Market), tasty, and extremely easy to cook. Heat up some olive oil in a pot, add garlic and crushed chiles and stir just until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the mussels and a cup of dry white wine with a nice acidic bite (I used a cheap, cheap Sauv Blanc) and cover the pot, keeping the heat high enough for the wine to bubble away. When the mussels have opened up (after perhaps two minutes), the dish is done. Garnish with lots of fresh parsley and serve with crusty bread or toast for mopping up the oil-garlic-wine-mussel juices. Apparently not that long ago, mussels were caught wild and dirty and came with beards attached. Now they are farmed and come to market very clean.

    My other achievement was a variation on this turkey pot pie. In place of mushrooms, okra. Okra, turkey, cornbread, good.

    -SW rags on RayRay:
    Rachael, Rachael, Rachael...I'm not gonna give you grief for sauteeing hot dogs, but don't you know that cooking with a delicate and aromatic oil essentially destroys all the properties that make it extra virgin in the first place? Lemme explain. Those flowery, peppery, grassy qualities that makes EVOO so distinctive instantly go up in smoke when you subject the oil to heat. Try this one time, heat a couple tablespoons of your EVOO in a pan, and then carefully drain some into a soup spoon. Blow on it until it cools. Now taste it. Compare it to a taste of EVOO just out of the bottle. Ugh, huh? A perfectly good waste of a perfectly good oil isn't it? Best to keep some organic canola oil in your cupboard for all those browning/sauteeing tasks and to reserve the EVOO for drizzling. Geez, how many time have I used EVOO in this paragraph? I'm starting to sound just like you...
    This is patronizing, snarky, and at least partly wrong. First, many cooks cook with extra virgin olive oil, not just Rachael. Why not pick on Batali? He insists on deep frying in EVOO. Even if it tastes better raw, it isn't bad cooked. When you cook with it you don't sip it off a spoon, obviously. Second, canola oil tastes like crap. Really. Corn oil and peanut oil are both much tastier, and vegetable oil ain't bad. Schmaltz, butter, and lard are all in a different league. Canola oil is the triumph of fat=bad propaganda over good cooking. Forget about it.

    Meanwhile, Giada is #11 on the Amazon bestsellers list. (Two of the top five are books about dogs!) I assume that the Giada crowd is a less classy version of the Nigella crowd, but that's just a guess. Some people really like Nigella's writing (?!?!) and cooking. Anyone out there willing to speak up in support of Giada's?

    -Keifer Sutherland: yesterday cocaine, today cooking.

    -Like a good story? Find love on the internet.