Once again, I find myself in the special self-flagellating bloggers' hell of mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I don't have any particularly interesting excuses for almost three weeks (!) with no new post -- just the mundane stresses of combined family and work crises. This post has been in the works for a while, and although I do have other subjects I've been dreaming of, this will do to ease my passage back into the blogosphere.
BNA of the delightful blog Peanut Butter and Purple Onions has tagged me for the You Are What You Eat meme (which was started by Ruth of Once Upon A Feast). The rules are simple -- it's just a matter of listing ten favorite foods. While still not enough for a confirmed food lover, ten is a great relief. It's just so difficult when someone tags you for one of those "three foods you'd take to a desert island" memes. That's too difficult for me. I know myself, you see. I like variety a lot, and would become extremely tired of three foods. This would hasten my desert-island demise in an untimely fashion by causing me to throw myself off one of the proverbial island's cliffs due to culinary boredom. Here are my 10, with which I took a fair number of liberties. They're not consistent -- some of them are raw ingredients, some of them categories of food, some of them preparations.
1. If I am what I eat, that apparently makes me a sweet little baby lamb, since that is perhaps my favorite of all meats. Ever since the advent of possible mad cow, G and I (confirmed omnivores both) have limited our beef intake to organic cuts, which are rather pricey. So we eat less beef, and more poultry, fish, pork and most especially, more lamb. We love lamb chops, rubbed with garlic and thyme and rosemary, grilled to crisp succulence outside and juicy pinkness within. Moroccan-style leg of lamb (rubbed with a paste of fresh cilantro, garlic and ras-el-hanout) is another favorite. Tagines and stews made with shoulder and stewing cuts are always good, as is the wonderful, rich and nourishing lamb soup harira, created to break fast during the month of Ramadan. We're fond of highly seasoned, slow-cooked lamb shanks too. Ground lamb often finds its way onto our menu in the form of kofte kebabs, Indian-style keema with green peas, or as a delectable cumin-spiced pasta sauce, topped with toasted pine nuts. Almost anything made with lamb (and other meats for that matter) benefits from a rub or a sprinkle of Penzey's Turkish Seasoning.
2. I hardly think that I would be at all unusual in adding chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, especially very dark chocolate to the list of can't-do-without-it foods. My chocolate mania is not quite as pronounced as it was in childhood, when forces beyond my control (known as my family) conspired to restrict my chocolate intake. Since becoming an adult, I've even been known to choose a non-chocolate dessert in a restaurant on occasion -- especially since I know there's chocolate at home if I start jonesing later. Yes, there's chocolate in the house. Like my favorite cousin, I always have a stash somewhere -- if I'm lucky, something delectable from La Maison du Chocolat or Jacques Torres. After all, one never knows when disaster may strike, and it's wise to be prepared.
3. Bread/Toast might just be my favorite comfort food. I've already talked about my late-night toast habit here. We're also very fond of pasta, rice, and potatoes. As a matter of fact, I hate to think of the ensuing mayhem if either of us were told to go on a low-carb diet. But back to the subject at hand. Toast (and even many kinds of untoasted bread) can provide contrasts of soft pillowy crumb and crunchy or chewy crust, a variety of grainy or other flavors or just a simple wheatiness. And as we know, it's the perfect vehicle for my next favorite food,
4. butter. What is better than butter? Let's not pretend. You know you love it too. I sometimes wonder if I'm actually French and was accidentally switched into my family at birth, since the French in general are known to recoil in horror if they spy margarine in someone's refrigerator -- exactly how I feel. I am often guilty of having three different kinds of butter in the house at any given time: stick butter for baking, whipped butter for easy spreading, and French butter for pure gluttony. I'm also extremely fond of butter's sensual parent cream, which has a permanent place in my fridge along with its cousins creme fraiche and sour cream.
5. Despite the seeming richness of our diet, we do love our greens. Salads with a good homemade vinaigrette, spinach, green beans, zucchini, broccoli and green vegetables of all kinds are very popular with both of us. A perennial favorite is broccoli rabe, lightly steamed and then sauteed in good olive oil with copious amounts of garlic and crushed red pepper.
6. If it weren't for our mutual love of soups and stews, we might never make it through the work week. During cold weather, I generally cook either a large pot of soup, stew or chili over the weekend, and we then have it a few more times during the week. On a night when I come home late and tired from teaching my grad seminar or other evening commitments, we put the already-made soup on to heat and get out our big sturdy white soup bowls with great anticipation. There's little that either of us find more satisfying than a meal in a bowl.
7. G's not as much of a fan, but I truly love all varieties of fruit. He's basically loyal to apples, with some fondness for pears as well. I, however, flirt with seasonal fruit, adoring the ripe spill of berries and lusciously runny stone fruits and melons in summer, snapping apples and melting pears in autumn, and the acid tang of many kinds of citrus throughout the winter. My lunch bag includes at least one piece of fruit each day -- right now clementines are much in favor. I also love baked fruit, dried fruit, fruit sauces and preserves, and including fruit in baked goods -- sour cherry streusel cake, apple muffins, pies, fruit tarts, all of which bring me to my next category,
8. pastries. Back to the rich stuff. I love to make, buy and eat pastry and baked goods of all kinds. It's virtually impossible for me to pass a bakery that has anything remotely interesting in the window, unless I've just eaten a very full meal. My saving grace is that although I'm greedy, I actually have a rather small capacity and don't eat large quantities of anything. I go through phases in baking. For a while I was doing a series of streusel-topped coffee cakes filled with everything from raspberries to dark chocolate and toffee. Then I had a sticky-bun/schnecken phase, when I made apricot schnecken and sour cherry-walnut sticky buns and luscious pecan currant rolls. I'm looking forward to making a classical rich chocolate cake for my cousin's Christmas Eve party, by request (I'm not the only chocolate and pastry-lover in the family, obviously). And Molly's scone recipe looks like a must-try to me.
9. The cheese category is at least as much for G as it is for me. There are few dishes that include cheese that are not a friend to my life-partner. It's a rare trip to G's folks inVermont that doesn't see us home with anywhere between 6 and 10 pounds of good aged cheddar. I tend to like imported and/or smelly cheeses more than he does, but both of us can easily make a meal of good cheese and bread (with a piece of fruit for me).
10. I know I already mentioned baked goods, but I feel that cookies deserve a mention all their own. Whether they're Mallomars from a box, Sarah Bernhardts from a now non-existent bakery or my own pecan sand-tarts or oatmeal, triple-ginger or chocolate mint or espresso shortbread, cookies are always a friend in a time of need. I've made eleven kinds this holiday season, most of which will be given as gifts, brought to work and to parties. More on the delights of cookies later.
I'm going to tag the lovely ZarahMaria of Food and Thoughts, a wonderful blog by a wonderful blogging buddy who, incidentally, was one of those who encouraged me to start this blog. She's been on hiatus even longer than I, so perhaps a meme will be an inducement to her as well...