Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tasty links

Here are some of my current favorite sites in the food world. I'd love to know what sites you enjoy, please let me know in the comments section!

  • Chowhound is my first stop for restaurant info, wherever I may be in the world. This is a lively community with highly opinionated posters. It also has cooking and general info boards. Chowhound is a subsection of, a broader food site with curated recipes, articles, videos and so on. It's also the home of Ruth Bourdain the bastard child of Ruth Reichl and Anthony Bourdain. 
  • Like so many, I mourned the loss of Gourmet Magazine. The Gourmet website is great, with well written articles and luscious recipes. It's a bit sales oriented, so you do need to slog through, but I have found some real gems here.
  • Foodgawker is food porn at its best. Lovely pictures entice you to make even lovelier recipes.
  • food52 is a food community, with recipes and articles submitted by users and vetted by chefs. 
  • 101cookbooks is a lovely blog gone pro with a focus on healthy recipes.
  • Lastly, foodily is a social recipe search site. Enter an ingredient, a recipe, something you don't want to cook with, and a list of recipes with images and search suggestions appears. Nicely done!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Oscars, a recipe and a terrible pun

My friend Ilene hosts an Oscars' party every year. It's a lot of fun - witty people commenting on clothing, presenters and award winners. There are two contests at this party. You can win a cash prize (everyone chips in) if you guess the most Oscar winners. Or you can win the dubious Urn of Shame for your pot luck contribution. Everyone brings a dish related somehow to one of the films or people nominated.

I am both proud and dismayed to report that my partner Kevin Brooks and I won this year. We brought (may I have the envelope please) Natalie Port-man in Black Flan, a pun on Black Swan. A bottle of port wearing a tutu and tiara carefully nestled in cocoa dusted flan. You can see it for yourself.

I had feared flan would be really hard to make, but to my delight it was actually easy. I also think I'll continue dusting it with cocoa - the bitterness balances the sweetness quite nicely. The recipe I used included cream cheese, which makes it a bit more stable (appropriate since I was driving it across several towns and had a bottle of port stuck in the middle) but no less delectable. I hope you try this sometime. With or without the pun.

This recipe was inspired by several I found on the net.

3/4 c white sugar (I used an organic light turbinado sugar)
8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
5 eggs
14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
12 fluid ounce can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract - next time I may try almond extract or maple syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. You really want to do this early, so it's hot and at a stable temperature.
  2. In a small, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, cook sugar, stirring, until thoroughly melted. This will burn you if it touches your skin and will melt plastic spoons, so please be careful. Pour the melted sugar a 10 inch round baking dish (I used a pie dish), tilting to coat bottom and sides; scrape the pan to get most of it out. Set aside. I then filled the pan with very hot water to soak until I was ready to clean it.
  3. In a large bowl beat cream cheese until smooth. I used an immersion blender. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Beat in condensed and evaporated milk, then vanilla until it's all smooth. Pour into caramel coated pan. Line a roasting pan or other larger pan with a damp kitchen towel. Place baking dish on the towel in the larger pan and place roasting pan on a middle oven rack. Fill roasting pan with boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the baking dish. This is important as it's the hot water bath that makes the custard set.
  4. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until center is just set - you can poke a clean butterknife into the flan midway between the center and side. If the knife comes out fairly clean it's done. Cool one hour on wire rack, then chill in refrigerator 8 hours or overnight (I chilled six hours and that was fine). To unmold, run a knife around edges of pan and invert on a larger plate. There will be quite a bit of sugar syrup and a layer of hard sugar on the pie-pan (soak and it will dissolve). I then dusted quite generously with dutch process cocoa.

(c) 2011 Laura S. Packer

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Giving things away - 1970s cookbooks

As you know, I've decided to give some things away.

You've always wanted to know how to make a Hot House, right? (It's limburger cheese with butter on toast.) How about Pumpkin and Cheese pie? Or Flamenco Veal Chops? All of these recipes and more are in this set of cookbooks.

As you may know, I've been helping a friend clean out his mom's house. We've found quite a few amazing things there, including a trove of cookbooks. She enjoyed cooking in her younger days and would pick up every free cooking pamphlet she could find. I love cookbooks and so have taken many of them for my own collection.

There is no way I will ever use all the cookbooks I have.

This selection of cookbooks is from my friend's mom. You might enjoy the recipes, you might enjoy the astonishing 1960s and 1970s illustrations. I can't wait to see how dated our 2011 graphics look in 40 years.

This package includes:

  • 100 Ways to Be Original In All Your Cooking (by Lea & Perrins Worcestershire)
  • Great Food and Drink Inspired by the Taste of the Renaissance (by Amaretto di Saronno)
  • Recipes for Cheese with California Wines
  • Your Amaretto do Saronno Gourmet Secrets
  • The Calvert Party Encyclopedia (includes asparagus loaf!)
  • Salignac, The Unstuffy Cognac, Recipes
Come on, doesn't this sound like fun? Let me know why you want these treasures from my friend's mom in the comments section; make sure I have a way to reach you. . I can't wait to share them with you!

On my other blog I'm giving away a set of dominos based on The Little Prince. Take a look!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Giving things away

image courtesy of
I’ve been thinking about stuff lately. You know, stuff. The accretion of physical objects that leak into our lives, become precious and then become anchors to where we are and who we were.

I’d like to have less stuff, but I’m awfully attached to it. This worries me.

As you may know, I’ve been helping a friend clean out his mother’s home – she is a compulsive hoarder – so I have some idea of what can happen when we hold on too tightly to all the stuff in our lives. I’ve been thinking about how to get rid of some of my stuff and have some ideas.
  1. Throw it away. Rent a dumpster and have a wholesale disposal party. I know a couple who had to do this when they moved (they didn’t plan well and ended up with more than they could take with no time left to give it away or sell it) and it broke their hearts. I don’t want to do this.
  2. Sell it in the local paper, craigslist or eBay. Some of this stuff is undoubtedly valuable. I have offered some of it for sale, with mixed results. Honestly, I find this kind of selling to be generally more trouble than it’s worth.
  3. Give it away via freecycle. I’ve done some of this, but have had some frustration with unreliable pick-ups and so on. I’ll do so again, but I don’t have the time to answer 400 items about a pair of socks.
  4. Sort through it and give it to a worthy charitable organization. I can also give it away directly, offering sweaters to homeless people and books to schools. I have done this and find it satisfying; I will do so again. 
All of these methods help with most of what I want to get rid of, but they don’t help with sentimental items, those things I no longer need or use but can’t bear to just put in a bag.

This is where you come in. I’d like to give you some of the things that come with stories attached. By giving them to you, I can tell myself they will be used and appreciated. I’m going to do this here and on my other blog over the next several weeks (I’ll give away more general items there; here I’m focusing on things related to food). This ties in with my increasing interest in the value of a giving things away in general, be it content, time or product.

Every Saturday I’ll post an item and its story. If you want the item please tell me in the comments section. Let me know why you’d like it, why it interests you, what you might do with it. A sentence or two will do. Make sure I have a way to contact you. I’ll pay for shipping within the U.S. Once you get the item, if you’re so inclined, post a comment and let me know how you’ll use it. This isn’t necessarily first-come-first-served. The best story gets the prize.

Just so you know, here are some of the things I’m thinking of offering here and on my other blog:
  • Old cookbooks and recipe booklets
  • Fabric
  • Jewelry
  • Beads
  • Books I have loved and would like to share
  • Paper ephemera
  • Music I have loved and would like to share
  • Etc.
If there is interest in this I think it would make a neat series. Thanks for helping me out. I’ll feel better, knowing the things I’m giving away are going to people who will appreciate them, people I have some connection with. And you will have a story and a new thing to play with. Check back on Saturday here and here for the first offering.

(c)2011 Laura S. Packer