September 2005

Food Astrology

On Thursday nights at 1 AM, my third eye opens and I can peer into the future–at least the future as it pertains to food. For I, The Amateur Gourmet, shall now reveal myself as the world’s first food-blogging astrologer! A Flogstrologer, if you will. And won’t you? I think you will. In fact: I know it.

[WARNING: The following predictions are EXTREMELY accurate. Ignore them and suffer the consequences!]

Aries (3/21-4/19)

The moon is in orbit with Mars and Mars Bars are in orbit with your ass. Go on a diet, fatty!

Taurus (4/20-5/20)


While preparing brownies for your cousin’s Bar Mitzvah, you will beat the batter too long and overdevelop the gluten. The brownies will be chewy and your cousin will choke during his Haftorah. Don’t worry. Now’s your moment to shine. Ascend the bema and sing: “Miracle of Miracles” in a high falsetto. You’ll be a hit.

Gemini (5/21-6/21)


Season your love life like you season your soup. In otherwords: oversalt it. Salt kills bacteria and most of the people you sleep with are diseased.

Cancer (6/22-7/22)


There’s a crumb on your chin. No, not there. There. NO. On your CHIN. Jesus, are you blind? Here, just wipe your whole chin… use a napkin. There, you got it.

Leo (7/23-8/22)


Don’t bite the hand that feeds you unless the hand is Rachel Ray’s in which case bite and bite hard.

Virgo (8/23 – 9/22)


When making pesto, you tend to add the oil too rapidly. It’s because you’re ugly and no one loves you.

Libra (9/23 – 10/22)


Hey! Who’s the best cook in the world? You are!! And even if you’re not, at least you’re not a Virgo. Virgo’s are ugly and no one loves them! Plus their pesto sucks.

Scorpio (10/23 – 11/21)


A census taker will try to test you. Eat his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. If he’s Jewish, chop the liver. It’s delicious!

Sagittarius (11/22 – 12/21)


When Frank Bruni gives your new restaurant zero stars, you may feel like your career is over. It is!

Capricorn (12/22 – 1/19)


When life throws you lemons, make lemonade. When life throws you preserved lemons, prepare Veal Shanks, Artichokes, Chick-Peas with Preserved lemon.

six to eight 2-inch-thick veal shanks (5 pounds total), each tied securely with kitchen string to keep meat attached to bone

1 1/2 cups dried chick-peas, picked over

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

two 10-ounce packages frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, halved lengthwise if large

1/4 cup packed fresh coriander sprigs, washed well, spun dry, and minced

3 tablespoons four-day preserved lemon zest slivered

For four-day preserved lemon zest

3 large lemons

2 teaspoons coarse salt

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice

Make four-day preserved lemon zest:

Scrub lemons and with a vegetable peeler remove zest in strips. In a saucepan of boiling water blanch zest 1 minute and drain in a sieve. Transfer zest to a glass jar (about 1-cup capacity). Add salt and juice, pressing zest down to keep it covered by lemon juice, and cover jar with a tight-fitting glass lid or plastic-coated lid. Let zest stand at room temperature 4 days, shaking jar each day. Preserved lemon zest keeps, covered and chilled, 6 months. Makes about 1/2 cup.

Make the veal:

Preheat oven to 275°F.

In a heavy kettle large enough to hold veal shanks in one layer without crowding arrange shanks and season with salt and pepper. Roast shanks in middle of oven, covered tightly, 3 hours, or until tender. (Meat will give off juices as it cooks.)

While shanks are roasting, in a large saucepan combine chick-peas with enough water to cover by 4 inches and simmer, covered partially, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until tender but not falling apart. Drain chick-peas in a colander. Chick-peas may be cooked 2 days ahead, cooled, uncovered, and chilled, covered.

Transfer shanks to a deep platter and keep warm, reserving pan juices.

In a large heavy skillet heat oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking and cook onion, stirring, until softened. Add artichoke hearts, chick-peas, and reserved pan juices and simmer, covered, until artichoke hearts are just tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer about 1/2 cup chick-peas with a slotted spoon and about 1 cup pan juices from skillet to a blender and purée. Stir purée into artichoke and chick-pea mixture to thicken and stir in coriander and salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon artichoke and chick-pea mixture over shanks and sprinkle with preserved lemon.

[Via Epicurious.]



You will fry an egg. Right now. Go. Fry one. I predicted it.



Your lactose intolerance is just a mask for other forms of intolerence. Have a milk party and invite minorities. You’ll thank me later.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Gourmet Survivor II, The Final Frontier: Any New Orelans Dish They Choose

The people have spoken. 308 people voted. And the majority of these people want Jason and William to make, for their final battle: “any New Orleans dish of their choosing.” So gentlemen, you have your instruction. My only caveat will be: please limit your entry to ONE dish. It may be tempting to cook a New Orleans feast but let’s not be wasteful. One dish of your choice prepared extremely well. Best of luck! And, again, it’s due Sunday night at 10 PM.

Gourmet Survivor II: An unbelievable $2,748 raised so far, Farewell Melissa and The FINAL Challenge


Battle beignet was truly inspiring. Really, all the entries were masterful. I mean just look at those pictures in the post below this: don’t you want these people in your kitchen making you beignets right now? WELL I HAVE THEM IN MINE… I’VE KIDNAPPED THEM ALL AND THEY’RE BOUND AND GAGGED MAKING BEIGNETS WITH THEIR FEET.. WAHAHAHAHA…

Just kidding. So let’s get down to business. First order of business: money.

When I started this contest, I thought in my head: we will raise, probably, $1000. But that hasn’t been the case. No siree. We have raised, for the American Red Cross Disaster Fund, $2,748!!! So thank you so so so much to EVERYONE who voted, and to all our players and coaches.

Now for the sad moment where we announce who we’ll be saying farewell to. (Those who read the title have a heads up.) She wowed us with her Po’boy and then gladdened us with her beignets, but Melissa–protege of David Lebovitz–has been voted off the island. She raised $205 this round, impressive, but not enough to beat William’s $240 or Jason’s $300.

So thank you so much Melissa for playing! You can feel good that you helped raise so much money for people in need!

And now it’s on to the FINAL BATTLE: William vs. Jason. What should they have to cook?

Now’s the time for YOU to chime in dear readers. Below you can vote for the dish William and Jason will have to cook for their final battle. You have until tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 10 PM to vote. They have until Sunday at 10 PM to prepare this final dish. Their fates rest on YOUR shoulders. Get to it!

Gourmet Survivor II, Round Two: Battle Beignet

And then there were three. Players that is. And wait ’til you see the work they did in this round!

A brief recap for those new to the game. This is Gourmet Survivor II, a fundraiser for Katrina victims (and now Rita victims) with money going to the American Red Cross disaster fund. We had four players in the first round make Po’boys. Readers voted their favorites by pledging $5 per vote to the relief fund. Over $2000 was raised. Now we’re down to three.

So it’s very simple. Click the following pictures to read three different beignet entries hosted on three different blogs. When you choose your favorite, go here and pledge however much money you want in increments of $5 ($25 is recommended and makes you very cool and very sexy—and that gets your player 5 votes.) Make sure to put the name of the person you are voting for IN THE COMMENTS. Otherwise they won’t get the credit. You have until Tuesday at 10 pm EST. The one who’s raised the least cash gets voted off.

Ok, and that’s it! So here they are, entries from Melissa, William and Jason. Thanks to them and to our food blogger hosts for all their work. Enjoy the scrumptiousness below!



Strawberry Blonde Cheesecakes Have More Fun, Especially at The Brooklyn Diner

I almost forgot to mention that after the Indian meal and after the reading Patty and I went for coffee and dessert at The Brooklyn Diner. You know my parents really like The Brooklyn Diner: it’s on 57th Street and the food there is really good, I gotta say. Plus the service is really attentive, the decor is kitschy and my brother got a picture with Tony Bennet there once.

We were seated next to a girl who was eating by herself reading a City Opera program. Reading the dessert menu, our attention went immediately to the strawberry blonde cheesecake—because it was in a box and it said FAMOUS and had a quote from Gael Greene in New York magazine saying “it’s worth a month on the treadmill.”

So here it is, with Patty pouring on the chocolate sauce:

You know I have a theory about cheesecake. It goes something like this: Adam’s Theory About Cheesecake. Cheesecake can only be so good. I love cheesecake, but if one were to graph the effort one can put into a cheesecake and the way it pays off in taste and flavor, you would see that at a certain point no matter how much additional effort you apply it’s going to taste just as good as the good cheesecake you could make without that extra effort. Because good cheesecake is light and rich and fluffy—and you do those things in the assembly, by beating it properly and baking it properly. If you bake it in a water bath that makes it more satiny. But beyond that, again, it can only be so good.

Ok, ok, your theory sucks. How was this one? I liked it. Patty and I gobbled it up. The girl next to us eyed it over her opera program. We threw a fork at her. It was a lovely evening.

Where To Eat Before A New Yorker Reading at The Director’s Guild? Try Zitar

This weekend was The New Yorker festival. I had a fabulous time, especially last night when I went with my friend Ricky to see Rufus Wainwright and we totally became best friends with Rufus’s sister, Lucy. The Rufus Wainwright concert was the highlight for me (we had awesome seats right up front) and “The Art Teacher” (a song from his newest CD) is now in my permanent mental rotation. Today I went with my friend Mark to “The Humor Review” and it was less funny than it should’ve been (this old man behind me said to his wife, “They call that comedy?”) but it was great to put so many New Yorker names with faces. George Saunders did a great bit about samish sex marriage and Patricia Marx did a hysterical piece called “Audio Tour.” You can probably find these pieces somewhere on the internet.

Friday night I went with my friend Patty to see Zadie Smith and Jonathan Franzen read from their work. First, though, we grabbed dinner with Patty’s girlfriend Lauren. I had my little ethnic eating guide and we were exploring Indian restaurants on 57th street when it began to pour. Patty pointed out Sitar and said she’d heard it was good. Here’s a picture I took after dinner when it wasn’t raining:

That is SUCH a New York picture. I love it. For anyone who doesn’t live in New York, this gives you a sense of what it’s really about. Trash on the curb, neon NAIL lights, graffiti on metallic gates. Of course there are pretty patches too, but much of New York looks like this.

As you can see from the picture, Sitar is upstairs. So we went upstairs and saw just a few people eating. We took a table somewhere in the middle and the waiter said, “You want the buffet? It’s very good buffet.”

We asked to look at the menus and realized, doing some calculations, that it made more sense to do the buffet which cost $15 and came with nan and rice.

“Ok, ok,” we relented. “We’ll do the buffet.”

So here’s the buffet from far away:


And here it is up close:


And here, finally, is the plate I made:


What’s on it? Oh, let’s see: fried cauliflower, chicken of some sort, “Lamb Rogan Josh” (I got that from the previous picture—sounds like someone I knew in college), vegetable curry, a spinach dish, etc etc.

It was all very tasty. Patty had an Indian beer. I had two pieces of nan. Lauren ate some rice.

Lauren went off to a party and Patty and I went on to see Zadie and Johnny read. They both did great: Zadie especially. She’s adorable and her new book “On Beauty” seems pretty great. I enjoyed “White Teeth” very much. When I finish the 80 other books I’ve started lately, I’ll make sure to get to hers. And maybe I’ll read it while eating another meal at Sitar. That’d be nice, now, wouldn’t it. I’m having trouble ending this piece. [Adam does a tap dance and runs off stage. CURTAIN.]

A Decadent Snack

So with my salad ingredients (see below) I also bought a sourdough baguette at the farmer’s market. At around 5 or so I got hungry again and whipped up this easy to assemble snack: a slice of sourdough, with nutella and raspberries.

I could’ve toasted the bread, but it was fine without toasting. I enjoyed my snack. My inner snack critic said, “Smart, sophisticated…really quite lovely. Well done!” That’s going on the billboard.

The Bowl That Comes With A Recipe (Summer Nectarine and Arugula Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette)

On a pre-lunch walk the other day, I passed Fishs Eddy. According to their website, Fishs Eddy “specializes in American flatware.” That’s a very formal way of saying they sell funky and fun dishes and plates and spoons and bowls. Some are cheap, some are expensive, but it’s always a treat to go browse around. I already have three bowls from there and one large charger type plate that I usually use to showcase the food I make for this site. Anyway, in the window of Fishs Eddy was this bowl:

Isn’t this a fun bowl? As you can see I bought it. But I didn’t just buy it because it’s funky and blue and ceramic. I bought it because above the bowl in the window was a recipe. A recipe for a summer salad of (you already know but I’ll repeat it): arugula, nectarines, raspberries and walnuts with a raspberry vinaigrette.

I had an index card in my pocket (don’t ask) and I copied down the recipe from the window. Then I purchased the bowl. It was $15 but I plan to get a lot of use out of it.

Then I made my way to the Union Square Farmer’s Market and bought all the ingredients that I didn’t already have. That amounted to: 1 2/3 cups arugula (or torn assorted greens), 1 nectarine (I bought two) and raspberries.

At home, I followed the recipe’s advice and made dressing in a jar. Only I didn’t have raspberry vinegar so I subbed balsamic vinegar. It worked fine. I also doubled the recipe because I like lots of dressing.

So here’s what goes in the jar (this is the not doubled version):

4 tsps olive oil

1 Tbs raspberry vinegar

1/4 tsp mustard

1/8 tsp sugar, salt & pepper

Here it is pre-shaking:


And here it is post-shaking: (sorry, it’s blurry)


I really like this method: the dressing gets emulsified and there’s no mess. Get yourself a dressing jar today.

As for the salad assembly, it’s real easy. Wash and tear up the arugula. Add sliced nectarine. Toss with some dressing. Toast some walnuts, sprinkle on top. (2 Tbs of walnuts.) And then sprinkle on raspberries. Here’s the finished product:


Isn’t it cute in my new bowl? Oh new bowl, you are my new favorite bowl. Imagine all the salads we’ll have together. We’re going to be best friends.

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