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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tom's Foodie Sunday #1

By Tom

I'm kind of a foodie. I don't really cook for myself since I live alone and learned long ago that I don't do leftovers. I was taught that wasting food is a sin, that there are starving people in the world that would be very happy to get those cooked carrots (then, pray send them to them, Mother..) and the result was that for years I would dutifully wrap the half of the dinner I hadn't finished up and put it into the icebox, where it would sit balefully staring at me until I moved it it the freezer. It would still be there when I went for the ice cream (or more likely the Vodka), a small frozen reproach to everything I was brought up to believe. Eventually I learned to just let it go, and pick up something from the salad or soup bar, or a cooked chicken leg and call it a night. No hassles, no leftovers, no fuss.

I do still like to cook and did so with one of my oldest friends. We would cater events together. Our whole friendship was founded on food; we met in the eighties when I got my first job out of college, at Dean & Deluca in SoHo. I ended up working for her in the pastry department and we became fast friends. Over the years we catered friends weddings and theater openings and did numerous parties at her (various) homes. We assembled canapés in a room under theater 2 at the old Tiffany Theater on Sunset, hunched over in a windowless room with a five foot ceiling and a light fixture that strobed so much I thought I was going to develop epilepsy. We baked a wedding cake in a borrowed Brooklyn kitchen, drove it and then decorated it in a hotel room in the Catskills, cutting gum-paste decorations out with my library card since we goofed and only packed one knife. We cut out cookie-sized tortillas and bought cheap camp stoves in Little Tokyo to make individual quesadillas for a friend who was trying to get people to invest in his circus, clowns unicycling around us.

We were nuts.

But there is something wonderful about cooking, and cooking with someone with whom you have a rapport. We're the sort of friends who don't need to talk all the time. We can watch an old movie and chop our endive or bake our pies. My friend is the baker. Is there a better smell than baking? Smart realtors often put a sheet of sugar cookies in the oven before an open house; the smell of baking cookies could make the most Addams Family of houses seem that much more homey. I maintain that my friend is the better baker than I since I like the more free-form things to make that give you more leeway. Baking requires precision; even doubling a batch of brownies can change the outcome for the worse.

The one thing I do bake is Biscotti. They are marvelous: delicious and very easy to make: mix up, form into a loaf, bake, let cool, slice and bake again. While Foodie Sunday isn't going to be recipe central (at least from me, since my recipes tend to be "buy food from Gelsons and eat it". But I will mention that Googling will get you about 300 decent recipes and that any of them that have say, cranberry pistachio can easily be changed to almond or plain with grated lemon zest. Your house will smell delicious and you'll be very popular in your 'hood.

If you're a baker, why not share some of your favorites?

Image source, countryliving.com

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16 Comments:

Blogger Flora said...

Tom, what a great post! I can just see you as a younger guy in your kitchen whites, whipping up pastry and joking around with your friends. I should try making biscotti sometime if it's that easy!

I love to bake but I rarely do it now - too much temptation to eat it all myself with no one around to share it with. I do bake for special occasions sometimes. One thing I adore is Pulla (also Bulle in Swedish), a Scandinavian specialty bread that's made at Christmas time. I got a great recipe from a friend of Finnish descent that's the best thing ever. It's a semi-sweet yeast bread you can make either as individual buns or a braid, and it's made with scalded milk, fragrant crushed cardamom and orange zest. An egg glaze gives it a delicate brown color and a shiny appearance out of the oven. The smell of it in the house is fantastic, and it's wonderful for breakfast during the holidays with a cup of stout coffee and your favorite egg dish.

1:22 AM EST  
Anonymous lady jane grey said...

I'm a passionate cook, and somewhat less skilled, but still enthusiastic baker. And now I'm sooo in a mood for those lovely chocolate hazelnut biscotti - but sigh, I'm on diet right now. I probably could make a break and restart tomorrow ?...
A delicious post, Tom !

12:14 PM EST  
Anonymous Lorelie said...

I don't think you were nuts at all! These are wonderfully evocative memories, the Catskills, Little Tokyo. I'd love to hear more.
The biscotti look tempting. Now that you've told us how easy they are I might have to make them. I don't bake anymore but enjoy cooking and creating. If I'm going to bake it's going to be something simple.
Looking forward to these Foodie Sundays!

12:40 PM EST  
Blogger Beth Gehring said...

Ok..Biscotti!!!! I love that you know how to make those! I don't bake very often, but when I do....My resolution for 2011 is to learn how to make a perfect Macaron!
I'm probably nuts:)
Loved your first Foodie Sunday Tom...no recipes needed, the descriptions were mouthwatering!

6:23 PM EST  
Anonymous Marian said...

I'm looking forward to Village Voice's "Choice Eats" in March. I've read about so many of the exhibitors- to have them all gathered under one roof is almost too good to be true.

Here's one of my favorite comfort food recipes. Because it's scented with rose water it smells as good as it tastes.


FIRNI (Persian Rice Pudding)

1 cup rice flour
8 cups milk
3/4-1 c sugar (I use 3/4)
1/4 c rose water

Stir together flour and milk. Heat over medium low heat stirring constantly til thickened, about 45 minutes. Add sugar. Stir til dissolved. Add rose water. Heat a bit longer on very low heat. Chill.

Nush-e jan! (Bon appetit)!

6:25 PM EST  
OpenID museinwoodenshoes said...

Well, that was fun! Just finished teaching my 15yo daughter how to make her dad's favorite Lemon Bars; they're cooling as I type.

Recipe here: http://southernfood.about.com/od/dessertrecipe1/r/bln332.htm

This cracked me up - 'my recipes tend to be "buy food from Gelsons and eat it"' - mostly because my late grandmother, who was a fabulous cook specializing in southern country-style food, the kind of thing that usually takes much time and effort, once gave me her secret bread recipe. It went like this:
1) Go to Kroger.
2) Find the frozen food section.
3) Buy a package of frozen bread dough.
4) Take it home, follow the directions, and when people sigh over your bread, take all the credit. When they exclaim, "Oh, you made homemade bread!" - LIE. Then confess, but not to your guests.

I miss her and her sense of humor.

7:56 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Donna-

that sounds delightful!

10:03 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

jane-

thank you! I think Biscotti are almost diet food. They don't have butter, you could substitute stevia for sugar if you want to and there's only a couple eggs in a whole batch. I find one to be plenty satisfying, so it's an indulgence but not a fatal one..

10:19 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

lorelei-

these are dead simple and people just love them..

10:20 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Beth-

If you perfect them I swear I'm relocating to your guest room. I went to a coffee where the host had a big platter from a place that makes them here and I was in total heaven..

10:22 PM EST  
Anonymous Millicent said...

Bread! There's nothing better than the smell of freshly baked bread...mmmm. I got some sourdough starter as a present a few months ago and have been experimenting wildly with it -- so much fun. Here's my favorite basic sourdough recipe from the delightful blog, Chocolate & Zucchini: http://chocolateandzucchini.com/archives/2009/07/natural_starter_bread.php

10:25 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Marian-

That's so great! I love Persian rice pudding, its just delectable. Can it really be that easy to make?

10:26 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

muse-

thanks for this- I love lemon desserts!

10:29 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Millicent-

Thanks! I'm going to be checking that out!

10:30 PM EST  
Anonymous lady jane grey said...

Tom, I made one yesterday in the evening : chocolate-cherry... Yumm !

2:57 AM EST  
Anonymous Tamara*J said...

My family loves my pineapple upside down cake.
It was my husband's Grandmas's recipe.
When I bake them I always have to make two because they get eaten so fast. BOMB good!

3:51 AM EST  

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