Beth Eats + Drinks Imports.

Beth and her husband Bob moved to Prague in 2008; I miss her terribly but am glad she’s gone since hearing about life in the Czech Republic is fascinating.  Here’s what she wrote about her food diary:

I realized how many things I eat (well, drink — all my tea and coffee) I brought from the States… but that’s just because I was just there. Usually it’s less of a mix, more Czech. I’m trying hard to be healthy (8 servings fruit & veggies etc).

6.23 am: Trader Joe’s French roast (imported in my suitcase).  Small black cup for me, giant beermug full for Bob.

7.02 am: Second cup.

8.38 am: Cottage cheese, one cup. Water.

10.09 am: Pot of decaf peppermint tea, honey.

11.58 am: Big salad with greens (Vogerlsalat, not sure what that is), tomatoes, green onions, shredded carrot, and awesome homemade dressing (tahini/lemon juice/garlic/soy sauce/sesame oil/honey)

1.50 pm: 1 cup coconut chai, peanut butter lollipop (spoonful of pb).

6.04 pm: Bob is out for tennis and beer, so I’m on my own. It’s chicken and broccoli, and water.

Moist + Tender Chicken Breasts, from the kitchn

2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, of even thickness
Salt and pepper
¼ cup flour
Handful of herbs (optional)
Olive oil and butter

If you have a little time before cooking dinner, lightly salt and pepper the chicken breasts. It’s great if you can do this the night before, but it’s not necessary.

  1. Mix about a half teaspoon of salt in with the flour along with a little pepper. Chop the herbs finely, if using, and mix in as well.  Dredge both sides of the chicken lightly in the flour.
  2. Heat a large heavy skillet (with a lid) over medium high heat, with a little olive oil and about half a tablespoon of butter. Quickly sear both sides of the chicken breast until just faintly golden; you don’t want the insides to cook much at all.
  3. Cover tightly and turn the heat down very low. Cook for 10 minutes without lifting the lid. Remove from the heat and let sit for another 10 minutes, still tightly covered.
  4. Remove lid and serve. There is usually just enough chicken fat, along with pan juices, to make a simple sauce, too.

Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli Salad, from The New York Times
Makes six to eight side-dish servings

1 ½ teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
2 heads broccoli, 1 pound each, cut into bite-size florets
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 fat garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons roasted (Asian) sesame oil
Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes.

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the vinegar and salt. Add broccoli and toss to combine.
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil until hot, but not smoking. Add garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in sesame oil and pepper flakes. Pour mixture over broccoli and toss well. Let sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature, and up to 48 (chill it if you want to keep it for more than 2 hours). Adjust seasonings (it may need more salt) and serve.

Marcella Craves Coffee.

Marcella and I have been friends since we were unceremoniously lumped together as roommates our freshman year of college… meaning we know a lot of each other’s dirty little food secrets, such as who was addicted to maraschino cherries, who chewed bagels too loudly and who forced who to make many a late-night White Hen run for more Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip.

9.15 am: The plan was to have cup of espresso, skim milk and Torani sugar-free hazelnut syrup. It’s my tragic version of an at-home latte. Realized I had no milk. Decided to return library books while out.

9.35 am: No parking spots anywhere.

10.05 am: Espresso concoction, finally. Slice of banana bread that I’d baked before going to bed last night.

11.55 am: Another espresso concoction. I am working on a cookbook project right now even though I don’t frequently cook (though I often toast things).  Lemon cake.  Greens and beans.  FEED ME.

1.00 pm: Campbell’s tomato soup and oyster crackers.

3.00 pm: Anjou pear. Pre-run snack.

4.50 pm: Iced mango mandarin green tea on my way to a meeting. Served in one of those red plastic party cups.

7.12 pm: A few handfuls of sliced almonds.

7.45 pm: More almonds.

8.10 pm — 10.15 pm: A Hoegaarden at my favorite bar, where my sister and I shared a yummy pizza topped with buffalo chicken, sweet and sour sauce, jalapeno peppers and mozzarella cheese. It’s a menu item and a complete success. Seriously. Switched to Lake Placid IPA, then had one more.

Stephanie Eats Out.

I thought it would be fitting to post Stephanie’s food diary today, since she’s leaving for Italy and adventure in about seven hours.   (It’s okay to be envious of her two months abroad.  You won’t be the only one feeling that way.)  Buono viaggio…

Oh, and what Stephanie ate is kind of unusual because she doesn’t usually buy all of her meals out.

10.00 – 11.00 am: I drank four glasses of juice – two glasses of Welch’s apple juice and two glasses of Dole orange strawberry banana juice. My body must have been craving the vitamin C.

3.00 pm: Because it was an hour wait at Stone Park for brunch, I deliberated between the shrimp and grits and what I ultimately decided to order: scrambled eggs, short rib hash, potatoes, wheat toast with butter and apricot marmalade, two glasses of water and a Bloody Mary, garnished with a lime, celery, and the largest caper I have ever eaten.

4.00 pm: I drank a large iced coffee that didn’t quite hit the spot. There wasn’t enough ice in the cup.

4.30 pm: I ate a vegan carrot muffin with not-vegan cream cheese frosting while I sat at Prospect Park.

5.30 pm: I drank a small pot of chai tea with honey at Tea Lounge.

8.30 pm: For dinner, I ordered take-out from China One. I ate General Tso’s chicken with broccoli, pork fried rice and an eggroll.

10.30ish: For a late-night treat, I ate two rice crispy treats that Jasmine made with chocolate, cashews and a dash of curry.

Ben Eats Meat (and a Veggie Burger).

I don’t get to eat out with Ben nearly as much as I would like, mostly because he lives on one end of the country and I’m on the other.  The few meals we’ve been able to share have been memorable for their own reasons — like orange-chocolate lattes and pretty much everything at Eleven Madison Park — but we mostly listen with extreme levels of envy to the other describing a food-related experience.  Like, for example, the day Ben had recently.  He writes:

On Saturday, Jill informed me that she really wanted to go to a farmers market because she was craving fresh fruit that didn’t taste like plastic, chemicals and/or nothing. So Sunday morning Jill and Dave and Tim and I roamed the Hollywood Farmers Market for tasty fruit and fixings for dinner. We had no concept for dinner, so we let the market dictate what we were buying. Because we got there a bit late the protein selection was not the hottest, so after lunch we went to McCall’s Meat & Fish. (This was my second experience* with McCall’s and, despite my aversion to religion, I might form a cult for that place.) After a back and forth with Chef McCall, we opted for a 2.5 pound Kurobuta Pork Rack. This turned out to be a very good choice.

We avoided recipes with this meal**. There was something really nice about just taking the fruit and veg and herbs we’d purchased and kind of winging it, making it up as we went along. And I wasn’t disappointed: it was simple, unbelievably fresh and delicious.

Try and tell me you’re not jealous of that.

Morning Snack at the Hollywood Farmers Market: random sampling of blood oranges, blackberries, strawberries, English peas, almond butter, cashew butter.

Lunch at Kitchen 24: veggie burger, side of potato salad, Diet Coke.

Yes, I should have eaten at the Market. But K24 is around the corner and their homemade veggie burger was calling to me.

Afternoon snack while prepping dinner: blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, almonds, pieces of olive/fig bread.  2 glasses of Ménage à Trois California White.

Dinner: Herb-crusted pork rack, dill & garlic fingerling potatoes with English peas, baby greens + balsamic strawberry with walnuts & chèvre, olive/fig toast, 2 glasses of Coppola Rosso.

Dessert: Strawberry + blueberry + blackberry in lemon juice with mint sugar.

* Two weeks ago we made a rack of lamb that was kind of a revelation; it was the first times where we prepared something that I considered truly restaurant-worthy. I have no doubt that it was largely due to the beautiful cut of meat, but Jill & I cooked that bastard perfectly. It was the best lamb I’ve ever had.
** That said, Chef McCall very helpfully gave precise directions on the butcher paper on how not to eff up the cooking of the pork.

Darlington Drinks a Lot.

Darlington‘s written a caveat:

I drink inordinate amounts of water throughout the day which are not listed — this is due in part to my affinity for caffeine, part to my profuse sweating usually induced from hot yoga and part simply to my insatiable thirst!  Also, I am trying to limit my sugary/fatty sweet intake these days — normally I have above average consumption of baked treats and ice cream — bad bad habit!

9.30 am: Bunch of grapes and handful of strawberries in the car while driving to meet a friend.

10.00 am: Americano with whole milk (cream was out) from Crema Café.

2.00 pm: Steamed kale and avocado with salt and pepper (surprisingly good); lentil soup at my friend Anne’s house.

3.30 pm: Pot of tea and soy milk at the Sherman Café – encouraged to get it iced given the unseasonably warm temperatures, but I declined.

7.30 pm: Handful of multi-seed chips while cooking dinner at home.

8.30 pm: Relaxed in front of my laptop (is that an oxymoron?) watching Grey’s Anatomy with salad (red leaf lettuce, watercress, steamed asparagus, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds and homemade dressing); whole wheat fusilli with tomato sauce and grated pecorino romano; glass of red wine.

I’ve Got a New Cookbook in My Clutches…

…and I loves it.

The cookbook in question is Nigel Slater‘s The Kitchen Diaries, and it comes highly recommended to all of you, particularly if you’re on a voyeuristic food diary kick like me.  The book’s subtitle explains it all: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater;  that’s right, it’s pretty much a year-long food diary, so it’s basically my dream cookbook — with Mr. Slater’s excellent writing acting as amuse bouche.

I had first read Mr. Slater’s words in Toast, his creatively-structured memoir; each stage in his childhood, adolescence and adult life is characterized by what he was eating at the time, whether it was bread-and-butter pudding, jam tarts or — yes — toast.  In The Kitchen Diaries, Mr. Slater does something similar but instead of telling the story of his life in food, he chronicles his year, right down to a day in March where he “[fails] to notice there is bugger all to eat in the house.  At seven thirty [he dashes] to the corner shop, returning with a can of baked beans, a bag of frozen fries and some beers.”

That’s right: Mr. Slater does not lie.  Who hasn’t been faced with that?  Of course,  Mr. Slater also has  days where he cobbles together meals with what he’s cleaned out of his pantry (white bean and tarragon soup on May 9), the bounty he plucks from his garden (July 15th’s zucchini cakes with dill and feta), and what he’s toted home from the Marylebone farmer’s market (celeriac and walnut remoulade, and a coffee and walnut cake on November 28).

Regardless of what he’s cooking in his lovely-sounding kitchen — “…the doors to the small, narrow kitchen opened out on to the garden… I cook with the doors open on even the wettest day. The smell of spring rain as I chop and stir brings with it a gentle freshness and energy” — it’s Mr. Slater’s superb writing that makes The Kitchen Diaries read as exactly that: a highly personal journal that happens to focus on food.  I can’t even dream of one day possessing such skills myself, though I know I can turn to this (cook)book for inspiration.

But forget about what I think, and read what the writer himself has to say*:

It is always difficult for an author to name a favourite book from their own backlist, but when I am asked I invariably choose The Kitchen Diaries… an account of more or less everything I cooked in the course of a year, presented as an illustrated diary… Some say it is  worth the price simply for the brownie and the double ginger cake recipes, both of which seem to have gathered something of a following. I rather like the pork and lemon meatballs myself (April 20th).

I’ve got a few recipes bookmarked to try, and once I do I’ll be giving you an update.

* from nigelslater.com

Kelly Disses Croissants.

Kelly‘s the father of two little boys, one of whom is already obsessed with cooking — a toddler after my own heart.  A French transplant, he’s probably tried croissants at every bakery in Metro-Boston, if not New England.

7.45 am: Glass of Simply Orange juice and some generic Mucinex pill (yummy!).

8:30 am: Small black coffee with a very unFrench chocolate croissant from Sally Ann’s in Concord Center.

1:30 pm: Leftover cod with jasmine rice in a leek cream sauce and a copious slice of Iggy’s Extra Long Francese.

6:45 pm: Seitan, roasted red pepper and red onion stir-fry with sautéed ginger and garlic in a fish/soy/black mushroom sauce served with, yet again, more rice and Iggy’s Francese.

9:30 pm: One chocolate chip cookie that our sitter didn’t eat.

Food Diaries.

My love of the food diary is pretty well documented — I’m absolutely fascinated by what people eat.  Instead of journaling my week in food, I got to thinking: What are my friends eating?

So I asked them.

I’ll be posting a day in their eating lives soon.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, check out what New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton’s been eating

Food Diary, Vol. 2: Day Seven.

11.00 – 11.30 am: Breakfast of black olives, salami, baguette, pita bread (which in my house we just call bread), Tomme Crayeuse and Brebis Ossau.

1.42 – 2.06 pm: More olives, salami and pita bread, plus some Armenian string cheese, which I share with the dog.

5.20 – 6.01 pm: Turkey time.  Even though I don’t much like it, I eat bit of dark meat, along with my family’s version of Thanksgiving fixins — mango salad, bean salad, two and a half boeregs, holiday rice* — and a glass of Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Dry Riesling.

6.30 pm: Glass of Koehler Chardonnay in the backyard with the dog.

7.05 pm: Two slices apple galette, a bite of chocolate-chip meringue and a hazelnut truffle.  Then another few inches of galette.  Then some galette crust crumbs.  And a grape.

Apple Galette, from Everyday Cooking with Jacques Pépin by Jacques Pépin
Makes eight to twelve portions

½ recipe pâte brisée (recipe following)
5 large apples
¼ cup sugar
4 tablespoons apricot preserves
1 tablespoon Calvados or Cognac

  1. Make pâte brisée.  Roll out dough 1/8 to 1/16 thick, in a shape that fits roughly a cookie sheet — approximately 16 x 14 inches.  If the dough is not thin enough after you lay it on the cookie sheet, roll it some more, directly on the sheet.
  2. Peel and cut the apples in half, core them and slice each half into ¼-inch slices.  Set aside the large center slices of the same size and chop the end slices coarsely.  Sprinkle the chopped slices over the dough, then arrange the large slices on the dough beginning at the outside, approximately 1 ½ inches from the edge.  Stagger and overlap the slices to imitate the petals of a flower.
  3. Cover the dough completely with a single layer of apples, except for the border.  Place the smaller slices in the center to resemble the heart of a flower.  Bring up the border of the dough and fold it over the apples.  Sprinkle the apples with sugar and pieces of butter, and bake in a 400° oven for 65 to 75 minutes, until the galette is really well-browned and crusty.
  4. Slide the galette onto a board. Dilute the apricot preserves with the alcohol and spread it on top of the apples with the back of a spoon and the top edge of the crust.  Take care not to disturb the apple pieces.  Serve the galette lukewarm, cut into wedges.

Pâte Brisée **
Makes enough pastry for two 13 x 16 rectangular crusts, or two 13-inch circular crusts

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter, cold and cut into thin slices
½ teaspoon salt
Approximately ¾ cup very cold water

  1. Mix the flour, butter and salt together very lightly, so that the pieces of butter remain visible throughout the flour.
  2. Add the ice-cold water and mix very quickly just until the dough coheres.  The pieces of butter should still be visible.  Cut the dough in half.  Wrap and refrigerate for one to two hours, or use right away.  If you use the dough right away, the butter will be a bit soft, so you may need a little extra flour in the rolling process to absorb it.  When rolling, use flour underneath and on top of the dough so that it doesn’t stick to the table or the rolling pin.  Wrapped properly, the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for two or three days, or it can be frozen.
* “Holiday rice” is what I call the rice my mother makes exclusively for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It’s pilaf with ground beef, pistachios, almonds, pine nuts and cinnamon.  Whenever we come to visit, Keith asks my mom for holiday rice, and she refuses.
** I find this pastry extremely soothing to make, mostly because I love mixing the ingredients together with my hands. I think it’s really relaxing. I also like to trash-talk my dough while I make it.  Dunno why.

Food Diary, Vol. 2: Day Six.

1.15 – 3.30 pm: Lunch at Eleven Madison Park with Keith and Ben; it’s my second time here in a month, and I’m excited to eat.  We decide to do the three-course prix fixe for $42.00.  After an amuse bouche of gougères, sashimi and cucumber panna cotta, I order the chicken velouté with veal sweetbreads and black truffles, the linguine with Alaskan king crab and Meyer lemon, and the bone marrow crusted beef tenderloin with saffron onions and braised shallots (for $15.00 extra).  Try bites of Ben’s scallop with celery, more Meyer lemon and black truffles, as well as the poached pear and the savoy cabbage that accompanies his boudin blanc — though neither of us can remember what it is until Ben texts me afterwards.  Also sample Keith’s slow-poached egg with Parmigiano-Reggiano and mushrooms, his ricotta gnocchi with artichokes and bacon, and his suckling pig confit.  Ben tries to get me to eat some of his salad of heirloom beets with chèvre frais, rye crumbs and edible flowers but I’ve had this dish before so instead I order a non-alcoholic cocktail called “Up the Alley” that is so good I promptly get a second.  We’re too full for dessert but we make room for the two plates of macarons we are given anyway; Ben and I share a caramel-popcorn and a rosemary-pistachio, but after that I eat my own sesame and chocolate-quince.

4.45 – 5.30 pm: Cinnamon-spiced apple cider at the Grey Dog.

7.10 pm: Bowl of pilaf standing up in the kitchen while my parents eat dinner and watch Jeopardy!

7.59 pm: Handful of dried mangoes, which my dad has always fed to the dog, who stares unblinkingly at me — and indignantly huffing — until I share.