cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Trick or A Treat? Spicy and Sweet

Spicy Chocolate Black Bean Cakes

Is it a trick? Have I put a rock in Charlie Brown's bucket? Say what!? Perhaps if I said both a trick and a treat you will roll your eyes? Black bean brownie cakes with spicy chocolate. What say you to that! Perhaps it is a little tricky, perhaps it is a little healthy, perhaps I think about cake too much, but i must do something mischievous while sitting on my bum pretending to write a history paper as door-knocking goblins and ghouls solicit me for candy, are you surprised that college bar parties aren't quite my style? Don't worry--I am not offering the them these cakes, perhaps if i did they would throw soap at my windows. So a bucket of sticky sugar pills awaits their arrival by the door. Are you familiar with the American tradition of trick or treating? History links the practice to an evolution of events stretching back to medieval Europe. Yes trick or treating has a history, and while I would love to bestow history lectures upon the monsters at my door in lieu of candy, I think I would prefer to not be kicked in the shins and have a toilet paper and egg-free house in the morning. But you can't kick me from where you are! So on y va.

But first I want to make note on the layout change here at the Salty Cod: we've finally played the Html game and figured out how to import photos as their proper size--all thanks of course to my friend-the fantastically talented photographer/viciously gifted pastry chef Christy down yonder in Aussi-land. Please visit her at 5 Types of Sugar right now. Well after you are done reading my ramblings of course.

So the grand ultimatum: trick or treat. The origins of the American game lie in medieval European pagan traditions for the celebration of All Saint's Day, or All Hallows Day on November 1st, All Souls Day on November 2nd, and All Hallow's Eve on October 31st. On these days, variant traditions of costuming and soliciting food at the doors of strangers in exchange for prayers for the dead arose as, beleive it or not, a Christian practice. Souling, termed in Ireland, was the first trick or treat dating back possibly to the tenth century in which fruits and cakes were asked for in exchange for a prayer. In Ireland the practice of leaving soul cakes out on doorsteps for the departed continues to modern times. Though we must accredit the Scottish tradition as the closest predicate to the American version. In their practice of guising, children went door to door performing poems, dances, or jokes in exchange for a treat--today we get no such vaudeville.

Undoubtedly these souling traditions made their way to the United States on the coat tails of immigrants. The first public mentioning of the term Trick or Treat was in the Oregon Daily Chronicle newspaper in 1934, reporting on pranksters dressed as ghouls and ghosts who in mob racquet fashion, knocked upon doors demanding candied fruits and food stuffs as a treat, or they would trick the poor sap's house by soaping or rocking the windows. Ultimately: which would you rather? Give me a treat or have a trick on you! This practice spread across the country--the cautious home owners began to prepare the evening of October 31st by having sweets on hand, while the more disagreeable old timers were known at a time for keeping the shot gun close by.

Today, trick or treating is harmless--children know nothing of tricks only of treats as they walk the streets dressed as pumpkins and tooth fairies with glowsticks in hand. But the high school age out for those. Now the trick perhaps is up to the candy giver...shall i give you your chocolate bar, or perhaps, like poor Chuck, a gift of a rock.

Now to the subject of black bean chocolate cakes; a trick and a treat in one for this All Hallows Eve; for by their appearance none would guess a deceit, though on the inside they are wheat free, flour free, white powder free black bean cakes--a Salty Cod creation. Chouette! We recently stumbled upon the image of a Japanese red bean cake and thought, well why not black then? Black is our favorite. We are quite fond of black beans, for a few years now we have been cooking them regularly in a fashion not unlike our mental reputation: different every time. Sometimes with cumin, sometimes with cinnamon, sometimes with coconut milk, is there an onion? Perhaps some garlic this time. We have never made black beans the same twice, perhaps that is their charm, you can do anything with them. So why not a cake, a chocolate cake with cayane pepper and chilies.

Beans? Gluten free? Is this some vegan-esque mumbo jumbo? Ab-so-lu-te-ment non. We may not eat gluten, but it does not procure a prejudice against powdery white wheatness; we just happen to like beans and baking with vegetables (are you glad you missed the lemon and beet seed bread? many a taster termed it the beet loaf.) And though beans may sound healthy--there is plenty of sugar within. So a trick, but yet still a treat.

Spicy Chocolate Bean Cakes:
Ingredients: 2 cups cooked black beans ~ 4 eggs ~ 1.5 cups sugar ~ 0.25 cups cocoa powder ~ packet vanilla sugar ~ 1 tsp baking powder ~ one chili pepper ~ .5 tsp cayene pepper or chili powder

method: 1) in a food processor (or magic bullet. hehe) cream beans and pepper. 2) mix absolutely everything else with the beans in a bowl. 3) fill muffin cups, cupcake molds, or an 8x8 brownie pan. 4) cook at 375 for about 15 minutes for the small cakes, 25 for the pan.

spicy vanilla butter cream: 1 stick butter ~ powdered sugar (just wing it, sorry i never measure with frostings or icings) ~ cream/milk ~ vanilla extract ~ cayene pepper or chili powder

will make ten small cupcakes. But to be honest--they taste much better without the frosting. plain and au naturel, but for an aesthetically pleasing photo frosting is a must. so Salty Cod suggestion for second-time improvements: nothing on top, but if a top is a must, then perhaps just a chocolate sauce.

Since for many a caramel and chocolate bar are much more appealing, we will give out our gummy bears and peanut butter cups to the kiddies. But this gamble paid off--and I can eat them! Black beans instead of flour, yes it works, and yes it tastes good--even the white bread loving S.F.A (housemates) were surprised and amazingly pleased by the unexpected ingredient--because it does look like your everyday average daisy jane brownie. Haha! I ahk at them, I put a trick in your treat!

a bientot

Saturday, October 25, 2008

So a Peanut, an Apple, and some Maple Syrup Walk into a Bar...

Québec fudge cheesecakes with apple syrup

So tell me, have you grown weary of the images and tastes of the autumnal season yet? If you are slapped with yet one more recipe or trifle made with apple, pumpkin, and cinnamon will your shoulders hunch up as you grind your teeth from tedium? How many variant pumpkin breads, apple cakes, cinnamon buns, and trips to the pumpkin patch can there be! How many? Well, at least one more. So suck it up! October draws short breaths as he bleeds toward November, a staging platform for the onset of the holidays, a time when collectively our pumpkins and apples give way to gingerbreads and candy canes. So giddy up a couple more pumpkins and farmhouse visits, let me bask in this humor before the next six months of snow arrive. On y va.

I believe the last time i visited a pumpkin patch was with my kindergarten class--age six. So perhaps i am due for an encore sixteen years later (yes that's right i'm twenty two, none of this twenty-something business, i am what i am.) Where to pick a pumpkin in Spokane, well not in the city of course, perhaps those billboards shouting come pick apples at Walters' Fruit Ranch at Greenbluff! could be a hint. A mere thirty five minute drive north east of Spokane lies the Greenbluff farmland in the town of Mead; an association of growers that have been banded since 1902. Greenbluff is made up of over thirty small farms that offset each other throughout the season--cherries and strawberries in the early spring, apricots and rolling wheat fields in the high summer, and of course apple orchards and pumpkin patches in the fall.

Thirty farms? you say, how do you choose? Easy--Walters' got pony rides, tractor drives, and a foot-stomping good hay stage guitar player. Only kidding--Walters' is the first driveway on the right. Is that a reason? Why of course it is.

My housemates--the S.F.A. and I decided it would be a great family outing for the weekend, take in some air, get a couple warty gourds, inhale some tractor fumes, maybe dance around a hay bail...once at the farm you jump on one of the tractors that takes you out to the orchard, where one is greeted by an overall-wearing employee who hands you a bag or box and says with a toothy grin, good luck to all yee shorties, the pickins' are slim on the low beams, gotta catch em' up high! Well, it's a good thing i'm slightly above average height. The S.F.A. though do not break 1.4 meters (5'5 foot) among themselves--so perhaps it was I who left with a few more twigs and leaves in my hair as they pointed, and I picked.

Three bags of apples, and at .89 cents per pound what a steal! Honey Crisp, Fuji, Breaburn, Granny Smith, Golden, Red Delicious, Jonagold, Jonathan, and Gala apples all present and accounted for. Salty Cod employees will attest to never having enough fruit, particularly from cause of the boss' five (six?) piece a day addiction. Well enough agricultural business for today, as I later confide my thoughts on farm life to my friend; perhaps i could do it, pick apples, feed the chickens, bake pies until dusk--perhaps yes, but for all my respect of diligent agriculturalists, i know i couldn't last a week until falling away restless. But that is why there are places like Greenbluff, where we can act a farmer for the day, then back off with our little bundles of apples, drive home to the city, and then stand around the kitchen wondering--what the hell am i going to do with all of these apples?

What the hell indeed. I could eat them all in three days easy peasy. But perhaps we should put them to a use for the greater good. id est the culinary column you see here before your eyes. Besides--the University's Fall Family Weekend has brought my housemates' parents to town (hey, where's my family? Oh that's right parents have jobs, and little sister and little brother have school, and then there are the three dogs, and their hotel phobia, and the fact that i am sadly no longer 12 years old, but still, family you don't support me! To make up for this I will accept starbucks cards in the mail. ) either way there is need for me to show off my monumental skill with decadent pastry confections. But what to make...

Cheesecake of course. Find me a phobic of cheesecake and i will send you a box of Zataran's and a packet of koolaid in the mail as a prize. Individual cheesecakes mind you, (my training in Paris left me with a keen preference for individual deserts) not pumpkin though--too many of those on the scene lately, and to my chagrin apples must appear, for we did all of the picking... but an apple cheesecake? So passe--it's fall family weekend, and my family is absent, so how can i bring them in... you say a family recipe? My family doesn't have many of those. So turn then to cultural something French Canadian (mon papa vient du Québec, savez-vous ça?) Perfect! Sucre à la crème--Québec fudge to layer the top, followed then with our apples, though in syrup form, and while keeping with the invitation of maple, finish the dearling with a shard of maple peanut caramel.

Sucre à la crème, or Québec fudge, is not the easiest of fudge recipes; quite the contrary--it's complicated and easy to fudge up as it can one burn, and two result in a pile of crumbs. But that's the way with French Canadians... they like to complicate matters. For those familiar with Scotish confectionary delights, Sucre à la crème should sound reminicsent of tablet, an eighteenth century recipe for a dry crumbly candy with, you guessed it--sugar and cream. Tablet's Québecois cousin is nearly identical, though is more often than not made with maple syrup. How Canadian quaint. Many variant regions around the world have similar recipes--in South America (not sure where in South America) it is known as tableta de leche, and the Dutch refer to it as borstplaat. We at the Salty Cod market it as Québec fudge.

My sincere hope is that a high school student somewhere in this world happens upon this recipe through google while searching for a Québecois recipe for a fun though meaningless high school French class project of bring in a recipe from a French speaking region of the world! Four years of high school French classes and I am an expert at witnessing frozen cream puffs thawed, covered in chocolate sauce, and then presented to the class with the words these took me forever to make! Such headaches have left me with a project idea for a cookbook: high school language class recipes for your skill level that even the quarterback can't fudge up! Should be available for purchase via Random House early July of 2012. If this be the case--welcome student, yes there are in fact French Canadian recipes. How bout' that.

Sucre à la crème (Quebec Fudge):
ingredients: 1 can sweetened condensed milk ~ 1 cup milk ~ 4 cups sugar ~ 1/4 cup butter ~ 1 cup maple syrup ~ vanilla

method: you need a candy thermometer unless you are pro at candy mind-reading. 1) boil all ingredients for 20 minutes (reach 240), remove from heat, add vanilla, pour into a buttered pan. most recipes use walnuts, i did not, and i did not cook it long enough, and mine looks and tastes like caramel. so make sure you reach 240 degrees. lesson learned.

Plain old Cheesecakes:
ingredients: 12 oz (1.5 boxes) cream cheese ~ 8 oz sour cream (half a container) ~ 3 eggs ~ 3/4 cup sugar ~ vanilla ~ almond extract ~ juice of half a lemon ~ i package of graham crackers ~ 1/4 cup of butter ~ 1/4 cup maple syrup

method: you may have noticed the strange measurements, halfs and quarters--yes it's a halved recipe because i made way too bloody much for 8 ramekins. anyways. 1) cream cheese and sugar 2) add eggs one at a time 3) add all of the other stuff and mix very well. set aside. 4) crunch graham crackers to a powder, mix with butter and syrup, and press into bottoms of 7 ramekins (leave one without a crust, for a surprise gluten free guest) 5) pour cheese cake mixture in ramekins 6) place ramekins in a casserole dish or roasting pan, boil a pot of water, and fill pan half way up the sides of the ramekins for a water bath 7) place in 350 F oven for 45 minutes, cool for an hour, then refrigerate for four.

Apple Syrup:
ingredients: two diced apples ~ 3/4 cup apple juice ~ 1/2 cup maple syrup or honey ~ 2 tsp
method: boil juice, syrup, and apples--reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 10 minutes. add cornstarch--just remember to dissolve cornstarch in something before you add it. lesson learned.

Maple caramel with peanuts: make caramel, and add some peanuts. and remember--don't mistake wax paper for parchment. lesson learned.

So Jimmy Carter, Johny Appleseed, and Aunt Jemima walk into a bar, the peanut says can I buy you a drink? The apple says will you buy me a drink? And the syrup says, baby I am the drink. The solution: four rounds of tequila with a karaoke round of Ireland's rugby fight song. The result: mini cheesecakes, Salty Cod style.

this post is dedicated to French Canada, yes the country, and all of the French Canadians of the world. Yes I can dedicate a post to a million people. And as a bonus dedication, i'll throw in all those who have just finished writing a 15 page economic essay on Canada. That brings the dedication up to a million and one. chouette!

à bientôt

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Nut Report

The Virgin Macaron and the Gun

Wouldn't we all love to go to the nut shop where it's always fun. well I suppose first we would all love to actually have a nut shop to go to. I know I would. A nut shop would be a thing of wonder to behold, nuts nuts nuts as far as the eye could see; pistachios, and almonds, walnuts and pecans...Harlan Pepper? To have a nut shop to retreat to would mean to always have those little necessities close at hand. Yes a nut is a necessity. And with this necessity, we can make macarons.

The Salty Cod has never before attempted a macaron. They loomed in our radar as much too far out of our league, why? Perhaps it was their awesome majesty of divine grace exuded in the patisserie windows of Paris. The fancy pedestals, the glittering boxes-- row upon perfect row of every color in the rainbow. I was a common window smudge at Lenotre, gawking at the magnificent macaron trees; each tier a different color. Those are French. Those are French, i would tell myself, someday i will make one. Just not yet. I'm not good enough yet.

Well am i good enough yet? No, but i have had a change of mind--why wait until something is better to go for it, all of the could haves in the interim will be lost if we wait until we are good enough. Perhaps there won't be another chance for it. The idea came while rolling on the acorns in the park, i am going to make macarons, i decide as I skid to a bench to hop over, who cares if they don't look as good as the others out there. It was but a few hours later that I get a call from my boss with a last minute assignment (have I mentioned I am a newspaper photographer?) there's a big army ROTC event over in Mica, Idaho tomorrow morning, it's a training and a memorial, I need you to go shoot it. me: But I had planned on making macarons tomorrow...get someone else. Alright so i didn't say that, yes when and where? As per usual, the correct response. Macarons, afterward.

Winding down highway to farmland nowhere's-ville, I arrive (after a few turn arounds) down a road that (no was not on the map) at the shooting range where the university ROTC were having a rifle training session as well as a memorial to a former student recently lost in Afghanistan. After a lot of army jargon, stiff hand shakes, macho jumping jacks, yadda yadda yeah we all love Sarah Palin, god bless yep yep, I am accosted by an old friend with the words, so are you going to shoot a few rounds? I look at him, Excuse me? He responds, don't be scared, here's a bag of goodies, and i am handed a large bag of ammunition.

The immediate thought was repulsion; I hate guns, I hate the NRA, I do not believe in a right to bear arms, i'm a bleeding liberal voting for mis-ter Obama, I have a shirt that says Make bread not war, and you want me to shoot an army rifle? Have you gone mad? Needless to say when in the middle of nowhere with thirty army guys trying to put an assault rifle in your poor-little feminine fingers, you don't have much of a choice other than to just smile and take it. Or did I? The thoughts quickly ran to when would I ever be in this position of chance again? Is that guilt I feel from the little pebble inside that actually wants to hold that black monster? As a photographer one ends up at many a strange event, treasure chests full of chance encounters, free food, unexpected places, and well high tech military artillery in your hands. Lock and load.

I have shot a gun now. It was not as terrible as I had imagined. Though I did begin to tear behind my sunglasses while overhearing conversations of damn you got him right in the head, you got that bastard! I know that it is people who turn machines into monsters, and though the world would be a better place without them, it is the person holding the gun who is making the choice to pull the trigger. Yes these guys are training for the army. Training to go off and shoot people. Callousness to death is a necessity for a soldier. Me, I will pull the trigger at the cardboard target, blink as the cases ping back off of my glasses and forehead, I will remove the cartridge, set it down, and be content to never hold one again. I am applauded by my army men, but really, guns are no game. Almonds caught in egg beaters shooting astray from their bowl is a much more tempting bullet for me. Let's make macarons.

An initial attempt at a macaron would be ridiculous without consulting the wise teachings of Helen pastry chef at the world renound Tartelette. We cannot do everything on our own, so take help where you can get it. My eyes were glued to the step by step instructions i had studied the previous night repetitively as if for a midterm exam. The Torah of Macarons, the New Testament and the word of Allah all in one. Yes i let sit the egg whites overnight for twenty four hours. Yes I went out and finally bought a pastry bag. Well, a few compromises. No stand mixer. No egg beaters. Meringue by hand hooray! Grind almonds...well the margarita magic bullet, i am finding to be not so magical. Parchment paper? Crap I hate grams...but we will persevere. System D as we say.

Macarons are like blank coloring books, the shapes are there, you however fill in the lines. A macaron shell is a combination of meringue and ground almonds, while the center is n'importe de quoi. Therefore it's up to you. Nuts of course. Inspiration from Helens recent post on pecan pie macarons, i decided to make a thanksgiving macaron. Pecan in the shell as is her recipe, but with a cranberry cream cheese butter cream for the inside. Where we worried? Were we scared? Did it work out? Oui.

Cranberry Pecan Cheesecake Macarons:
Ingredients shell: 1/2 cup ground almods ~ 1/2 cup ground pecans ~ 3 egg whites ~ 1/4 cup sugar ~ 1.5 cups powdered sugar
Ingredients filling: 4 oz cream cheese ~ some cranberry jelly ~ 1 cup powdered sugar ~ 1/4 cup butter

method: just go here.

Our first macaron, our first gun. Two daunting images in one day. Life at the Salty Cod, sometimes isn't so boring after all. I will do the macaron again, the gun, well i can quit you. There is too much pain caused by that one three little word to give it anything more. The ROTC men were all thrills and chills and peppermint pills, for some perhaps they must. Dollface, Betty Crocker--call me what they will, at the end of the day I am more proud of my little macaron than getting up there in front of all their eyes and pulling the trigger.

à bientôt

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bourdain's Got a New Show. So Watch it.

If you don't like Anthony Bourdain, then, well...damn. What's wrong with you? No Reservations has been in off season now for about a month and a half, which is quite the happiness-killer when paired with the start of an academic term, but now (yes as in this week) that I am in the ******* middle of midterm examinations, papers, and presentations--my true love decides to return to me, though this time my prancing little black-lunged cavalier has traded his never-should-be-worn-in-public cutoff jean shorts for what looks Is that a suit? Anthony Bourdain: Travel Chanel's newest talk show host. Oh la la.

The inaugural address of At the Table with Anthony Bourdain graces cable and satellite waves this monday the 20th of October at 10h00 in the hours that dance in the sun's retreat. Not in America? Sucks to be you. Watch it on youtube.

For my hubris, I would love to review a show that has yet been graced by my eyes--but I will instead let the talented prose of those over at the Travel Chanel website do it for me:

As you'd expect from an Anthony Bourdain vehicle, opinions fly and no topic is off limits as Tony hosts a no-holds-barred dinner with four featured guests. Joining Tony around the table are celebrated writer Bill Buford, "Nightlife Queen of New York" Amy Sacco, TV personality Ted Allen, and gossip columnist Chris Wilson. They'll debate the ethics of an $1,800 dinner, and Tony will reveal how he always, secretly hopes the waiters like him. Food and travel stories will run wild from Wylie Defresne's restaurant wd~50 in New York City. Anything goes "At The Table With Anthony Bourdain.

I'm getting excited. For anyone who sheepishly knows nothing of Bourdain--I forgive you. But listen. Chef, traveler, smoking alcoholic, writer, and kind of a bastard. Tony is known for his harsh and sometimes crude opinions, such as if you put ketchup on your dog i will fucking kill you, or that vegetarians really don't deserve oxygen (is he really so far off though? hehe). On the other hand he has been caught, on a few occasions, showing squishy pangs of sensitivity, such as tearing up after a homemade feijoada in São Paulo, or hanging his head in acknowledgment at the site of a cattle slaughterhouse in Argentina. He respects the concept of food on a level only scraped by other high-profile personalities--with an emphasis on history, tradition, change, cultural perspective, meaning, and purpose---there is no food in this world without a story and a purpose. So in the words of Tony: As citizens of the world, we should know what came before. How we got here. Why we do things the way we do them. Where food comes from. Preach it.


Señor Bourdain has published cookbooks (Brasserie Les Halles), novels (Bone in the Throat), biographies (that would be biography--Kitchen Confidential), and short essays (collected nicely in The Nasty Bits). His television career kicked off with the stimulating A Cook's Tour on the Food Network, and then actually took off when he left Rachel's cesspool of extra-virgin OO to film No Reservations for the Travel Channel and where currently, though now in re-runs, you can watch him scampering about the globe eating real food you could only dream about getting your greedy little hands around. He's also appeared as judge on Bravo's Top Chef. Yeah you saw that one eh?

So Tony in his drive to dominate the entire industry now hits us with his culinary Inside the Actors Studio. Wait, didn't another tv chef personality have a talk show? Perhaps miss Ray's Daytime Drama? Hoo hoo I kid--Mr. Bourdain will not fail to entertain us with his witty turn of phrase-- so cook free or die good sir, but now we speak free or--change the channel.

Monday. 10:00. Be there. I will leave you with this clip from No Reservations. And of course it's Paris you dopes.

all photos were stolen from The Travel Channel.

a bientot

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Graham Crackers - Sexless Hardtack

to make my harlot of a cookieSo it appears that there are no graham crackers in Brazil. (that is a country in South America by the way.) No graham crackers? I whisper, how on earth...they are the blandest, most widely known and consumed childhood day-care snack in America. What do you mean you don't have graham crackers? I ask my editor as he says, dunno what you're talking about, I've never tried one, I think they don't exist here. Well well well what have we here; they're not actually American, are they? Who else knows nothing of this cookie titled cracker? On closer consideration, never do I remember spotting one in France. Perhaps they truly are an American thing. And really what the hell is a graham cracker anyway? Such questions are in want of answers, therefore, we attack. On y va.

The graham cracker: A Purely American Invention; and like most of those was obviously not good enough (ouch) to have traversed any international borders. Though the quaint "international aisles" of many a Carrefour undoubtedly stock two or three boxes somewhere out there. It's closest cousin being the digestive, or digestif found throughout Europe. A close examination of the cracker traces its origins to an early nineteenth century no-where town in Jersey at the hands of Presbyterian minister Rev. Sylvester Graham. Presbyterian bakers? Uh oh, we already have that heart-healthy Quaker. This should be hauntingly stimulating. Rev. Graham named the biscuit for himself--clearly either an act of modesty or severe lack of self-image--the cracker is tasteless and visually unpleasing, which is why it formed the center of the Graham Diet; a regime aimed at tearing the mind away from impure thoughts and the suppression of sexual desires, which Graham beleived to be stimulated by sensual cuisine. Ah, it all makes sense now, of course there are no graham crackers in Brazil. (remember that's a country.) Hey I made a joke, laugh.

The graham cracker was then ultimately created to make people so utterly miserable with lack-luster food that any and all desire to have sex, masturbate (also known as "self abuse" that led to insanity and blindness. so just keep that in mind), have an orgasm, drink alcohol, roll your eye funny, and think a couple naughty thoughts were suppressed and overcome. According to Graham, pleasing foods were the devil, and their production and consumption led one down the lustful path toward sexual desire, which in turn led to bad health. (Perhaps this stems from a private cholesterol grudge?) Grahams followers, known as Grahamites, founded the core of the era's temperance movement, and under the leadership of the Reverend, founded the American Vegetarian Society. Bloody hell--Bourdain is always right. If you are yet left with any doubt of the Reverend remember this--he outlawed tea. What say you now. A pious man? For my tea I say to hell with the bastard.

The original graham cracker was made from unsifted coarsely ground wheat flour, as refined flour was chemically induced and cheating so to speak. But then why are graham crackers so popular (in America) today? Let's face it--there is nothing commercially produced without refined flour, therefore, Graham's cracker is now a slightly sexier cookie, with sensual varieties from honey to chocolate to cinnamon. And forget not their tempting shapes--the teddy bear graham, dino-grahams, and zoo animals. Most Americans enjoy grahams with a variant topping; peanut butter, sweet creamed cheese, jams, and yogurts. And what about the s'more? Can it get sexier than the s'more? Chocolate and marshmallow melting into each other until fused between two graham crackers-- Sorry Reverend, your biscuit's been sexed.

But we here at the Salty Cod want to do better--we're sexier than some silly blob of peanut butter or shmear of cream cheese--we'll take the reverend's chaste biscuit and corrupt its healthy wholesomeness. Oh little cracker your virginity has now been given to your seducers--sugar, flour, honey, white chocolate, and butter. Yes let's make cookies!

White Chocolate & Honey Graham Cracker Cookies:
Ingredients: 2 cups white refined-bad-for-you flour ~ 1 cup crushed honey graham crackers ~ 1 tbsp milk ~ 2 tbsp honey ~ 1 cup white chocolate chips or peices ~ 2 sticks butter ~ 0.75 cup sugar ~ 1.5 tsp vanilla extract.

method: 1) beat room temperature butter with sugar until creamy. 2) add vanilla, honey, milk, graham crackers, and chocolate. 3) sir stir stir. 4) add flour. 5) roll into two long longs, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 2 hours. 6) cut into disks and cook at 375 for 10 or 12 minutes. 7) feel like an adulterous heathen.

photo of lighthouse courtesy of minha mãe -- somewhere in Maine

Graham crackers really are the classically pure snack, they are more often than not associated with children, as American children are often given the blander and more basic tastes of the world. I say American, for I know with near certainty a French child, such as little Flo, would snub her nose as high as la tour can reach at it.

We associate simple with purity, perhaps that is why I thought to turn to graham crackers for these cookies made special to send in the mail in a care package to my younger sister at the University of New England in the other northern corner of the country where everyone lives in a lighthouse. Now, I wouldn't go as far as saying she's an angel, but my mushroom topped little blond baby brings me to thoughts of sometime ago eating graham crackers. Hell I don't even know if she likes them! But nestled among other treats and treasures (such as white chocolate and honey rice crispy treat topped with candy corn), all sinful flavors of course, chocolates, fashion magazines, I hope they find their way to her stuffy little dorm room with a little bit of innocence.

A cracker for abstinence. A futile attempt to create a homemade sacrament wafer? Yet another course of history. Like most crusades aimed at quashing that most destructive of human sins (no not murder, sex) this one backfired. The graham cracker incorporated into mainstream American pop culture, reformatting itself with every fold, and each time moving piece by piece, crumb by crumb away from its maker until complete recognition as purely an after school snack for children sprinkled with cinnamon and honey, and all connectivity to its pious past forgot--save for its name. To condemn the pleasures of cuisine to sin is unto itself a sin. If food lovers, chefs, and bakers were and are sexual deviants of seduction--then i am guilty, so pass the wine and chocolate, and let's play dress up with this little graham.

à bientôt

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Food Photography Award

we won first place--twice!Writers and photographers Jai and Bee at host a monthly food photography contest centered around a specific theme--the month of September was themed crust, and, well, after submitting since the first time last March, I finally won. haha! It really is quite an honor---the competition is quite stiff, and the some 70 contestants are all incredibly talented food stylists and photographers (ahk ahk im a contestant--so i think i just called myself incredibly talented, call me Odysseus.)

Anyways--we at the Salty Cod placed first for our photo of Milk and Honey Challah Bread, and also first for the category of most original. And guess what--we are one of the judges for Novembers contest now. chouette! We think of this little tiumph over here as, well, maybe we actually are doing something right.

Visit Jugalbandi to view contest rules and peruse the other entries--

à bientôt

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hello October

treatise on cinnamon rolls and pumpkins
Hello October. Hello pumpkin. Hello Cinnamon. Hello leaves that must flee the trees. Hello wind that helps them down. Hello knitted sweater. Where's kitty?--hello you too. October is here. Can you smell it. I can. It's best to smell it before it starts to rot. As I stir the tea that need not be stirred, staring out the window at the dying leaves, the notion triste, is what flies to mind in bittersweet admittance of that hard of hard facts; that the warm of summer is over, and yeah, c'est vrai--it's October.

But his arrival is not all tears and down cast chins--for as much as a dream it would be to be held forever in summer's kiss and sunshine's embrace, we can't. One year ago October smelt of Germany and Poland, Prague, and homefully Paris. But what can October hold now aside from a runny nose. The upsides my friends, damn it there must be upsides. October... I will take out from hiding my October sweater (you don't have one? an orange sweater with elbow patches that you only wear in October? no? really?) there are pumpkin spice lates at Starbucks yet again. The weather will play you hot and cold like a fickle teenager. The sky will fall with beautiful reds, golds, and browns. The morning is brighter, but the evening then sadder. And, I suppose above all others, is now present that greedy sensation that it is finally ok to make the house smell a continuous breath of cinnamon, cloves, anise, nutmeg and ginger. Lo and behold the season of spice. On y va.

"My sorrow, when she's here with me, thinks these dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be; she loves the bare, the withered tree; she walks the sodden pasture lane." My mammie is quite the Robert Frost fan. Personally I have always thought him a hinge short of a depressor. The fork in the road: which will you take? Does that mean if i make the wrong choice I am doomed for all eternity? And what fault can we attribute miss sorrow if she here bleeds hope into autumn's rain--perhaps the dark days are naught but scorched cinnamon on crispy dough, and the withered trees are barren corn stalks as they shed the last of their bounty. Perhaps for his sorrow, as she walks that soggy lane, the chill brings longing toward thoughts of hot cider, hot chocolate, hot tea. She knows pertinence only lies in what one is willing to extract from the given. Robert, you are a lucky man for your sorrow if she finds tender thought in autumn's darkening days. Man-up you pansy! If sorrow can find glee so too can thee. These damn verbose poets...

Cinnamon, clove, ginger, anise seed, nutmeg, and mace. These are the spices of autumn. The smells we want to associate with the familial pumpkin pie cooling on the sideboard as the troops nestle down to that time-old thanksgiving feast. American children both love and despise the autumnal swing; the beginning of school is a bitter burden, though with the close of October redemption is won with the night of all Hallows Eve. Ten years since I have felt the thrill of trick or treat. Why do we have to grow old. The angel that I am, never did I trick, only did I treat. But now my seasonings of autumn roost in those spices made infamous by that seasonal pie.

Cinnamon: of origin from India. Used since antiquity, mentioned in the bible, dearly sought after by European adventurers. Me--I enjoy it on my popcorn, and shhh tell no one but stewed with my black beans and rice. Nutmeg: of origin in South East Asian tropics. Derived from the actual nut, which also produces our familiar mace. The clove: of origin Indonesian, though found at the base of many traditional cuisines world wide. Though not of the magnitude of salt, the clove was worth its weight in gold, and inadvertently adds comfort to any cookie, cake, or roast. Ginger: Chinese silver, and needs not but one word of explanation--fundamental. Anise seeds---well well well, anise sadly is not appreciated by all. To many the zest of licorice is a pique, though we the seasoned know better. Those are our spices six, so what shall we do with them? Pumpkin pies? Nahh I'll wait for the pilgrim party, so let's go to Starbucks and think.

As you all know, Starbucks is one of those seasonal saps--there's the gingerbread and candy cane flavors of Christmas, the nutty with extra chocolate flavors for spring, and the fruitier flavors for summer. In the autumn, however, is brought forth each year without fail the prince of them all--the pumpkin spice late. Yes, I will spend my money on this, what of it? Have you tried the pumpkin spice? I am a Seattleite, that being said, no matter how much a food-snob anti-chain campaigner I proclaim to be, I will never turn on Starbucks. Globalizing commercial enterprise? Deal with it, I like what I like. I can say death to the Golden Arches and live my hypocrisy through my love for the siren--I care not a bit. Growing up with coffee-guzzling addicted parents (love you guys) Starbucks cups often littered the house, coffee mugs with home-brewed starbucks drip was a familiar morning smell since my consciousness of breath. Starbucks art on the kitchen walls? Yessss I did dream, some day i'll drink coffee too. Like parents who smoke, I have followed your ways! Blessing or curse? I am not yet sure.

Starbucks is not the enemy, it is not taking over coffee-culture world-wide. It is available world-wide, but available alongside the next door brasserie in Paris, the next door cafe in Italy. The Starbucks on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain--go there and you'll find a Spaniard brewing coffee who passed a few years in Everett just outside of Seattle. He can make a good cup of coffee, and he can also direct you to some of the best local cuisine in the city. The best of both worlds does not have it come with a fight, it is already there. Ahk! Too many trips here down memory lane.

Congregated at Starbucks the S.F.A. and I sip* the pumpkin spice, staring at signs of the season, calls for spice cookies and sticky cinnamon sweet rolls, oooh how the smell digs deep, how I wish I could have one, but the smell will suffice. The S.F.A. turn, perhaps we split a roll among ourselves? NO! I'll make them at home for you, for breakfast you'll see. So, cinnamon rolls it is. Real yeasty dough, that's two in a row! Here at the Salty Cod we are getting much better at the kneed. For morning-fresh rolls one must work them the night before and let rise in the fridge, so come morning all one must do is pop em in the oven.

Autumn Cinnamon Sweet Rolls:
Ingredients: 4.5 cups flour ~ .5 cups white sugar ~ 1 stick butter ~ 3 eggs ~ 1 tsp salt ~ 1 packet yeast ~ 1 cup milk (use any fat you like, i saw no difference) ~ cinnamon ~ nutmeg ~ cloves ~ 1 cup brown sugar ~ .5 cup raisins ~ 1 packet vanilla sugar (yes I still have many left) ~ powdered sugar ~ and ach! maple syrup!

Method: 1) in a dainty saucepan heat milk and then add butter until completely melted, cool a little. 2) while still warm dissolve yeast, yes it must dissolve, so keep stirring. 3) add sugar, salt, 3 cups of flour, and the eggs. mix. 4) once mixed gradually add the remaining flour and then start to kneed. kneed kneed for 8 minutes. 5) let rise in a greased bowl for 1 hour. 6) roll out dough relatively wide, rectangular form, and try to keep the edges straight, meaning yes make sure there are 4 sides. 7) in a sopa bowl mix 1 cup brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mace, vanilla sugar and then spread all over dough. Sprinkle with raisins and crystallized ginger. 8) roll him up and using water on one side of the dough to seal the seam. 9) after rolling, pat it a little, but don't mark it with the b. Use dental floss to shimmy under the log and make perfect surgical cuts. if your eaters notice a hint of minty freshness, remind them it's good for their teeth. 9) grease a casserole pan, or say a large dutch-oven round pan, place the cut rolls in tight, cover with plastic wrap, and stick in fridge over night. 10) next morning set on counter for 30 minutes, and then cook at 375 for 30 minutes or so. While still pipping hot drizzle with icing of powdered sugar, vanilla sugar, and milk. Then, when you are feeling adventurous, drizzle with maple syrup. That's all.

The S.F.A. were quite pleased to have a ready and waiting warm breakfast, particularly the two with impending physics exams the next hour. Indemnity, I wager, for sufferance at having to live with me. Touche. Is there still yet more to say? After Starbucks, spices, sweaters, and rolls? There will always be more to say on what benefit we can draw from this season, so like the little traveling pumpkin pictured above--snatch up these chances, because in the tiniest blink the leaves will be gone, and mr. frost will have set in, and smothered us all. But the sun is not gone for good, you can still go there-- dans tes rêves.

à bientôt