Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Top Chef Gone Crazy

No Sam in the finale?
Again, no Sam?
How could that be?

I know that the judges don't mark for cumulative scores or total excellence or the number of past wins or even winning personalities (except when they do) and that the producers' influence is a wild card, but still, no Sam?

Sam is a much more consistent, creative chef than either Ilan or Marcel. He is a proven kitchen leader. His food was just as raved about as Ilan's. I don't get it. He is much more versatile a cook than Ilan.

Marcel's one-trick wonder finally worked for him, so I can't complain about him (well, actually I can but I'm not wasting any time on it.)

Here's my totally paranoid take on it.

Judge Tom, still smarting from the producers' over ruling his wish to throw them all out after the hair shaving incident and make Marcel the defacto winner, engineers an Ilan over Sam win.(What's with Sam's dishes not being cooked so therefore inferior, I don't want to digress, but BOGUS. Also bogus, Elia's flavors not being Hawaiian enough, but Ilan's despite all the Spanish sausage, saffron, etc., was.) Ilan is not as strong as Sam so Marcel has a better chance of winning it all and all the pranksters end up punished anyway.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Feeling Lucky? -- See's the Answers and Win a See's Gift Certificate

I've tasted, I've nibbled, I've savored, I've chomped, I've bit, I've devoured, I've eaten, heck, I've even slurped my way through more than 50 kinds of See's Candies chocolates and other confections but now the column on Sugar Savvy featuring regular tasting and rating of the goodies is about to wrap up.

But before See's Piece-by-Piece ends, The Well Fed Network is awarding loyal See's fanatics with a chance to win a $25 gift certificate for See's Candies.

To check out the See's Candies' Trivia Contest and how to enter, see this post. Deadline is January 31st, so get clicking.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

No Waffling -- This is a Great Ice Cream Sandwich

I recently tried King Arthur's Whole Grain Chocolate Fudge Pancake and Waffle Mix.

I made the mix into waffles and enjoyed the results with strawberries and yogurt. For a full taste test report, see my write up at Just Baking.

The waffles were surprisingly not too sweet, which made the leftovers a perfect foil for the ice cream in these Chocolate Waffle Ice Cream Sandwiches. (Plus, tell yourself that because of the whole grains in the waffles and calcium in the ice cream, this is actually good for you!)

Chocolate Waffle Ice Cream Sandwiches

Chocolate waffles, cooled
Softened ice cream or frozen yogurt, I recommend a toffee or caramel flavor
Flavored syrup such as chocolate, caramel, etc. (optional)

Spread softened ice cream on top of one of the waffles. Press down with spoon so the ice cream fills the waffle pockets. Drizzle with complimentary flavored syrup if desired. Place another waffle on top, pressing down slightly. With a sharp knife cut into desired size halves, sticks or triangles (this somewhat depends on the size and shape of your waffle.) Wrap each half, stick or triangle snuggly in plastic wrap and freeze until firm.

Update:  Just Baking and other Well Fed Network links are gone, dead, no more.  Thanks to the Wayback Machine archives, you can see the post here.

Or just continue reading to see a copy of the post itself.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Gift of Oliveto

My very good friend Leslie was the recipent of a very good gift certificate to Oliveto's, an Oakland, CA, restaurant well-known for its high standards and devotion to things authentically Italian.

Our meal, service and wine were wonderful. I wanted to write it up, but hadn't found the time when a local newspaper beat me to the punch. Read Nicholas Boer's review of Oliveto's here. Please try not to drool on your keyboard.

And Leslie, thanks for sharing your gift certificate with me!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Acres of Tangerines, Bushels of Oranges and a Grove of Grapefruit

It's unseasonably cold here in California which puts a large part of the nation's citrus crop in danger. Headlines in today's San Francisco Chronicle blared that 70 percent of the citrus crop are in jeopardy. Avocados could suffer, too.

Well, before the cold snap, Gary (Mr. Blog Appetit) and Noah (aka The Future Pastry Chef) stopped at Pedricks, in Dixon, CA, one our two regular, favorite farmstands (the other is Fisher Farms in Ripon, CA) and bought acres of tangerines, bushels of oranges and what seemed like a whole grove of grapefruit.

Foolishly, I shared my bounty. Now I wish I hoarded the goods. The diminshing mountains of citrus worry me, where before I wondered how I would use up the supply.

No tangerine sorbet this time, we still have lots in the freezer from the last batch of tangerines. Gary and Noah have been juicing so much I think our 20+-year-old juicer might have burned out its motor. We take turns peeling the fruit and sharing the sections amongst us and I have tried to incorporate the fruit into my cooking.

I just kind of jumped into "creating" some dishes using the citrus with varied success. I tried to make a caramelized tart with the tangerines in a tarte tartin style and found the tangerines, despite all the sugar, cooked up a bit bitter. The crust was wonderful, though. I think next time, I'll bake the crust, add a pastry cream or other filling and top with fresh tangerine slices.

I next tried combining slices of peeled oranges with sliced onions and sweet potatoes seasoned with cumin, cinammon, salt, pepper and a few other seasonings with a bit of butter on top and fresh orange juice to moistened it all as it baked. The yams tasted yummy, the orange slices kept their shape (I had thought they might fall apart a bit) and were okay, the onions were strangely bitter.

I guess I have a lot to learn about cooking with citrus. I'll keep experimenting, but maybe read up a bit on cooking citrus. If I come up with anything good, you'll read it right here at Blog Appetit.

Menu for Hope Results and Raffle Winner

The food blogging world and friends raised more than $60,000 for the UN World Food Programme. To see a list of raffle winners and contact instructions, please visit this post at Chez Pim.

Congratulations to Brilynn, of Jumbo Empanadas, winner of Blog Appetit's "I Wanna Be a Food Writer" prize.

Read more about the prize and the Menu for Hope effort here.

Thanks to all of you who participated in this year's Menu for Hope.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Happy National Marzipan Day and It's Almost Time to Bid Adieu to See's Piece-by-Piece

Today is National Marzipan Day and to celebrate check out my post at Well Fed Network's Just Baking site. You can also learn more about marzipan at the Love'nBake site.

Here's a roundup of other scribblings I have had posted on Well Fed:

On Paper Palate I wrote about the January issue of the Vegetarian Times, including the magazine's recipe for Persian Spinach Lentil Soup. Click here. I've also posted about Delicious Living's ideas for healthier cookies with links to recipes. For that, see here.

I also revised my peppermint bark recipe to make it suitable for cooks of all ages at Kid Cuisine. Click here to see the recipe (which makes a traditional break-apart bark as opposed to the rounds I made here.)

On Sugar Savvy, I have been continuing my weekly series on testing and evaluating See's Candies. Number 50 is on gourmet lollypops (See's Candies' spelling).

If you missed some of my previous posts on the Beverly, Rocky Road, or any of the other candies, you can scroll throught The Chocolate Box category at Sugar Savvy and catch up with them all.

I'll be wrapping up the See's Piece-by-Piece regular contributions with Number 52 in just a few weeks, so if you have any favorites you'd like to see reviewed, please let me know with a comment here or at the latest See's Candies post. Watch Sugar Savvy for some news about the final column.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Top Chef Episode 10 -- Just an Amuse Bouche

No time for a full rant and rave tonight. It wasn't a surprise that there was no winning team in the elimination challenge, but then I feel it is partly the way the challenge was set up.

Here's a Top Chef tidbit -- According to Bravo TV, Padma, like Kathy Lee Joel (last season's host and wife of singer Billy Joel), is the wife of a famous man. In her case it is the author Salman Rushdie. It's kind of like Beauty and the Geek, but only if the beauty was also a brain and the geek was one of the world's most respected authors.

Read more about Padma's life and accomplishments on her website.

The Month That Was -- Highlights From a Year Ago

Like any other proud blogger, I never truly let go of my posts, although it does seem that once they are off the site's front page, they are out of sight (site?) and out of mind. So, I thought I would start a new feature wrapping up the top posts of the month from a year ago.

This issue of "The Month That Was" features January 2006. It was a fine month with all sorts of delicious postings including:

My complete guide to making Vietnamese fresh spring rolls

Fragrant Greek chicken and tomato stew

Crock pot turkey chili with beans

Caramelized sweet potato fries

Vacation Condo Soup

Take a trip down memory lane, and check out January 2006 on Blog Appetit.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Grilled Eggplant - Tomato Salsa

I brought home a fresh, commercial Mexican-style salsa from the gourmet market featuring grilled eggplant a while back and my husband demanded it become a refrigerator regular. The bad news is I wasn’t able to find it again. The good news is that it inspired this sauce when I was looking for a way to jazz up a grilled flank steak. I wanted a more Italian tasting sauce instead of the finely chopped heat of the Mexican salsa and was very happy with the result. The sauce would also be good over pasta or polenta.

I know it's winter, but we grill all year round here in the Bay area of California and with the unseasonably warm weather those of you on the East Coast have been experiencing, why not enjoy a nice grilled meal? For those of you whose outdoor bbqs and grills are covered by deep snow drifts, try making this in a grill pan or on an indoor electric grill. Grilling also brings out the flavor of winter tomatoes.

Grilled Eggplant - Tomato Salsa

Grilled small Italian or Japanese eggplants, cut in half and brushed with olive oil before grilling, coarsely chopped
Grilled tomato halves, chopped
Grilled red onion slices, chopped
Grilled red pepper halves, chopped
Fresh chopped basil
Fresh chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley
Good quality olive oil
Splash of red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash red pepper flakes

Combine and enjoy.

Note: The amounts are variable to your taste and the quantity of salsa you want or need to make. You might start with two Italian or Japanese eggplants (those are the smaller, slim ones; leave the peel on), two medium large tomatoes (four halves), one medium large red pepper and one small (or half large) red onion. For this amount I would add two to three tablespoons of the chopped herbs. Add olive oil to moisten and red wine vinegar and seasonings to taste.

Next time I make it, I am going to add some good quality, pitted, green olives, chopped, and maybe sub some oregano for the basil. Maybe I'll remember to take a photo and post it, too.

About the photo: Taken in September in the Napa Valley.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Nominees Are ... Live Links for the Food Blog Awards

Through the magic of copy and paste and way too much time spent doing other than productive work, Blog Appetit brings you clickable links to all the nominees for the Well Fed Network's 2006 Food Blog Awards.

If you have already checked out the voting, you know the sophisticated and clever program that records your vote and does not allow for voting early and often also does not permit live links so you can check out a blog you might not be as familiar with as you like.

As a public service, Blog Appetit has done all that copying and pasting for you (hopefully correctly), so check out the nominees here and then go and vote on Well Fed. Here's a link to the balloting. Polls close on January 9th at midnight EST.

Thanks to the folks at Well Fed Network for hosting this event. Leave me a comment if I've messed up or a link is off and I'll fix it.

Well, here they are. Get ready to give your back button a work out and get clicking.

Best Food Blog (hereafter referred to as BFB) -- Overall

Traveler’s Lunchbox (
La Tartine Gourmande (
Orangette (
The Passionate Cook (
Simply Recipes (

BFB -Chef

Corduroy Orange (
Aidan Brooks (
David Lebovitz (
Lovescool (
Eggbeater (

BFB - City

Becks ‘n Posh (
NYC Nosh (
Blue Lotus (
Kitchen Notebook (
Londonelicious (

BFB - Drinks

Vinography (
Cork Dork (
Spittoon (
Basic Juice (
The Pour (

BFB- Food Industry

The Food Section (
Eggbeater (
US Food Policy (
Tavern Wench (
Chef Manifesto (

BFB - Photography

Spittoon Extra (
Cook and Eat (
Eating Asia (
La Tartine Gourmande (

Please note: The following nominee has requested that Well Fed remove her blog from the list for personal reasons. I am leaving her link in so if you are not familiar with her work you can check it out for yourself. Please vote for one of the other four sites:
Nordljus (

BFB - Non Blogging

Food and Wine (
Cooking Light (
Chow (
Epicurious (
Leite’s Culinaria (

BFB - City

Becks ‘n Posh (
NYC Nosh (
Blue Lotus (
Kitchen Notebook (
Londonelicious (

BFB - Group

Hungry Magazine (
Chow Magazine’s Blog (
Slashfood (
The Ethicurean (
Lasang Pinoy (

BFB - Family/Kids

Vegan Lunchbox (
Sweetnicks (
Cooking with Anne (
Daily Tiffin (
Gastro Kid (

BFB - Humor

Acme Instant Food (
The Food Whore (
Smitten Kitchen (
Chef Manifesto (
Bonappegeek (

BFB- New

Everything Rachael Ray (
My Husband Cooks (
Aidan Brooks (
Pinch My Salt (
Jumbo Empanadas (

BFB - Original Recipes

Coconut and Lime (
Seriously Good (
Scrumptious Street (
Stephen Cooks (
The Passionate Cook (

BFB - Writing/Posts

These links didn't copy and paste correctly, however the Well Fed ballot does have live links to all the nominated posts. To go to the post, click here.

BFB - Recipes

Rice and Noodles (
Tartelette (
Orangette (
101 Cookbooks (
Appon’s Thai Food (

BFB - Restaurant Reviews

NYC Nosh (
Onokinegrindz (
Becks ‘n Posh (
DC Foodies (
Grab Your Fork (

BFB - Rural

I Heart Farms (
Lucullian Delights (
Gluten Free Goddess (
Field to Feast ( )
Farmgirl Fare (

BFB - Theme

Everything Rachael Ray (
Kalyn’s Kitchen (
Gluten Free Girl (
Meathenge (
Sushi Day (

BFB - Writing

Brandon Eats (
Kitchen Notebook (
Orangette (
Traveler’s Lunchbox (
Cream Puffs in Venice (

UPDATE: The above are for blogging achievements in 2006. Want to see the nominees for 2007? Click here.

How Many Calories in That Piece of See's Candies in the Window?

One of the most frequent searches Blog Appetit gets is something like "how many calories in a piece of See's candy?".

To help answer that question, quoted below are the nutrition facts from the one-pound See's Candies' Christmas Fancy Box that someone thought (correctly) would make a good holiday gift for the Blog Appetits. The Christmas Fancy Box was an assortment of milk and dark chocolate candies as well as nut, chews and other See's confections.

From the Nutrition Statements insert included in my box of candy, copyright 2006 by See's Candy Shops, Inc.:

Serving size: 2 pieces (33g)
Servings per container (the one pound box): About 14

Calories per serving: 160
Calories from fat: 90
Total fat and percentage of daily value: 10g and 15%
Saturated fat and percentage of daily value: 4.5g and 23%
Cholesterol and percentage of daily value: 10mg and 3%
Sodium and percentage of daily value: 35mg and 2%
Total carbohydrate and percentage of daily value: 19g and 6%
Dietary Fiber: Less than 1g (4%)
Sugars: 15g
Protein: 2g

The calories per gram are:
Fat: 9
Carbohydrate: 4
Protein: 4

These See's Candies' products have no transfats and contain 4 percent of the daily requirement for calcium. A serving (which is two pieces, remember) also provides 2 percent of the daily requirement for iron and Vitamin A.

For more about See's Candies and how I have rated more than 50 of the confections in the last year, please go to Sugar Savvy and search The Chocolate Box feature for See's. Check out how your favorite See's candy rated.

Update: I'm afraid all the Sugar Savvy links are gone or broken.  See this post for more info.

Vote for Your Favorite Food Blogs

Time to vote over at Well Fed for your favorite food blogs of the year. Click here to be whisked away to the balloting. Blog Appetit is not a contender (which is too bad, because I'm sure we'd be crowned Ms. Blog Congeniality), but lots of her colleagues are, so click on over and vote (and maybe find out about a great food blog or two you didn't know about). Last date to vote is January 9th.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Top Chef -- Then There Were Six

Well, all bets off on Betty. Gumption, guts and a good personality can only take you so far and Betty was eliminated last night for her "chunky" and oddly flavored pureed soups. Now that the Top Chef competitons (as opposed to the program itself) are focusing on the food, not the gimmicks, formal culinary training might have been the missing ingredient for Betty.

The biggest surprise of the night -- and the biggest mystery -- was Michael. Battered and bruised and obviously drugged up, he ends up cooking his most sophisticated and presentable dishes so far and wins the quick fire AND the elimination challenge. He appears first with his face swollen and looking woozy. Later we learn he is on painkillers and has had an emergency wisdom tooth extraction. His altered state must have helped him focus, or maybe, he finally brought his A game to play. He had hoped to win the quick fire and then just coast through the elimination challenge, but, alas for him, the quick fire no longer brings immunity. It did give him the right to switch his elimination challenge assignment (the challenge was a seven course meal based on the seven deadly sins) sin from lust to envy. He created a trout and salmon dish with the explanation that the trout envies the much larger and more powerful trout. As one judge exclaimed after taking a bite: "Our Michael cooked this?"

Also praised last night was Elia's roast chicken and vegetables carved tableside (pride) and Sam's spicy cerviche with chili popcorn (anger). Betty's trio of slow roasted soups were sloth. Marcel and Elan's desserts (both in the bottom three) were lust and greed. Cliff's seafood packed thai stew was gluttony.

Anger was a prevailing emotion of the episode as one by one the contestents got ticked off by Marcel.

Once again, focus was on the dynamics between contestents with the food emphasis mostly on cooking failures (Elan's funnel cakes) or oddities (Marcel's foam) rather than seeing how Elia got her chicken so juicy or Sam created the very popular popcorn.

Was Michael's pulling it together an exception, or will we see more Top Chef worthy cooking from him? Will they find a way to bring the popular and popularist Betty back in some capacity? On the reunion show will anyone sit next to Marcel?

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A New Year's Present to Blog Appetit'ers -- New Links

It's been a while since I added to my blogroll (the list of sites I enjoy that I post on my side bar.) It's not really a fair representation of all the blogs I read, but I rarely take the time to update it. My apologies to all the wonderful bloggers and blogs out there, I promise one day to catch up with you all (probably AFTER I make the transition to the new Blogger). Meanwhile here are two blogs that I have been reading and recommend:

Harold McGee is known for his clear, incisive writing on the science of food. Now he blogs, too.
Check out his new blog, Curious Cook.

From the scientific to the romantic. It's easy to guess what Paris Breakfasts' obsession is, but its' creator doesn't limit herself to just breakfast in Paris, she also does tea, coffee and hot chocolate and the accompanying pastries and other goodies. In addition to serving up her experiences and photographs, blogger Carol Gillet also shares her delicate watercolors of her cups, saucers, macarons and other table top delights.