Round Up

30 04 2006

GoodMatch Point
BadThe Squid and the Whale
FuglyInterview with the Vampire

Monster House
An American Haunting
Simpsons Movie
Nacho Libre
An Inconvenient Truth
Lady in the water
Happy Feet
The Zodiac

RedElliston 1991 Cabernet Sauvignon
White – Chouinard Chenin Blanc 2003 Monterey
Sparkling – Krug Grand Cuvee


Less Stem

29 04 2006

When H (and now J&J) use stemless barware, I know they are ahead of the trend curve and I must hop on the D-train before the peasants get on. I do think (after much consideration) that there is some logic in the use of this. We traditionally use thick blown glass tumblers as a standard for casual evening meals. It is easy, convenient and I am able to fit them into the dishwasher. Stemmed glasses are probably best for special occasions and white-linen restaurants. To combine the convenience of a tumbler and the benefits of a wine orb, stemless barware is here to stay and swirl.

Ay Caramba

28 04 2006

We're tasting champagnes today. To go with bubbles, I love some nibbly bits –

An old world drink, it was brought over by Spaniards and enjoyed by the Aztecs. Spaniards substituted melon seeds with readily available squash seeds. Later almonds and rice were incorporated into its current iteration.

  • Pulverize 6 tbs rice to a smooth grind and add 1 1/4C blanched almonds, 1 inch cinnamon stick and 3 2" strips of lime zest. Let this stand overnight (minimally 6 hours)
  • Blend for 5 minutes until the mixture is smooth. Add 2C cold water and reblend
  • Line a sieve with 3 layers of damp cheesecloth and pour in the mixture through this into a large mixing bowl, stirring all the time. Twist remaindered fluid out of it and discard
  • Add 2 more cups of water and stir in loads of sugar (I use demerara sugar) to taste. Add water if the mixture is too thick.
  • Cover and refrigerate (keeps for days in the fridge). Serve in a tall glass over ice


  • Mix 2C masa harina and 1C warm water, and knead well in a large bowl
  • Knead in more water, one tablespoonful at a time, to make it moist yet firm (Down, boy)
  • Roll dough into a log and cut into 8 equal portions. Roll each into a ball
  • Press a hole in each ball with your thumb and stuff with desired filling
  • Fold over the dough to completely enclose it and press out wiht your palm to make a disc
  • Ensure that the filling does not spill out. I use a mixture of gruyere and fontina with cilantro and roasted pignoli nuts (sometimes walnuts) with sultanas
  • Line a tortilla press with plastic and press out each ball to 6" wide by /14" thick (I place between clingywrap and roll out with a rolling pin)
  • Heat an ungreased skillet over high heat
  • Cook each pupusa for 1-2 minutes on each side until brown and blistered
  • Remove to a plate and cover until all are done
  • They are typically served with a Salvadoran slaw (shredded cabbage, minced scallion and crumbled oregano with red pepper flakes in a white wine vinaigrette). Add a pinch of demerara sugar and lemonseen oil to taste


I first made them at J's house at Christmas time. We tempered an entire Saturday's worth of tamale making assembly line (her entire family and F's too!) with loads of tempranillo and tequila. I learnt quickly to buy the masa harina instead of making it. Also that corn shucks were critical!

  • Pick up a shuck, lay it across the palm ofyour hand and smear 1/2C of the masa on the shuck. Point the small (sharp) end away from you
  • Cover the left 2/3 and the bottom 2/3 of the shuck with masa. Leave the top and side uncovered so you can fold it up later.
  • This is a messy operation so get people to join you and work en masse (en masa? groan) until you have covered a dozen shucks.
  • Take 1 tbs filling (I use cheddar and marinated artichoke heads) and lay it 1" from the left edge. Starting on the left (where the masa goes all the way to the edge), roll the tamale all the way to the right. Now fold the top of the shuck like an envelope and lay tamale on the counter with the fold on the underside. Roll an entire batch. Now drink some tequila. Be sure to periodically taste the filling, purely for quality control purposes.
  • To cook the tamales, use a large pot that has a device to keep the tamales out of the water while they steam. You can use a steamer, pressure cooker or a pasta pot. Add loads of water and then stack tamales until full. The envelope end will be on the bottom and the open end on the top. Pack in tight so they do not fall over or begin to unfold when steaming
  • Bring to a boil and simmer to cook for at least 2 hours. Add water (check periodically) as you do not want to boil dry. To check, take out one (just one) tamale and leave it on the counter for 5 minutes. When you unwrap it, it should be firm with no raw masa.
  • When done, remove all of them and let them cool on the counter. Put in freezer bags (if you vacuum seal them, they will stay up to a year) but I typically find they are gone within the week so this is not exactly an issue at the SVilla.

Salsa Verde

  • Remove dry paper skins from tomatillos and coarsely puree uncooked tomatillos (1lb), 2 smal ancho chilis, 1/4C chopped green onions and 1C fresh cilantro with 1 peeled garlic, dash of lemon juice, 1 tsp sugar and salt to season.

Tomato Salsa

  • Chop 2 medium sized fresh tomatoes (destemmed, finel diced)
  • Remove stems, ribs and seeds of 1 jalapeno and 1 serano chili pepper. Finely dice. Do not touch these with your hands. I use industrial gloves. I cry loads. You can use a fork to cut up the chilis over a small plate and then use a paper towel to protect your hands. Set aside some seeds to add later for more "heat"
  • Combine tomatoes and chillis with half a red onion (finely diced), juice of one lime, 1/2C chopped cilantro, oregano and cumin to taste. You can also add salt and pepper, I prefer to add paprika and nutmeg.
  • Mix gently in a medium bowel. If too hot, add chopped tomato. If not so much, add chili seeds or (I prefer) ground cumin. Let sit for an hour (I prefer overnight) to combine

Fried Ice Cream

  • Place six scoops of 1/2C each of ice cream (I use Jamocha) in a small pan and freeze for an hour.
  • Combine 2 beaten eggs, 1/2 tsp Mexican vanilla in a small mixing bowel.
  • In a pie plate combine 4/5 C sweetened corn flakes (or crushed rice crisp cereal) – this is SO not Melting Moments, my first cooking experiment in fifth grade!
  • Dip each frozen ice cream ball in egg mixture and then in cereal mixture. Return coate dballs to pan and freeze one hour until firm. Reserve remaining cereal mixture. Cover and chill remaining egg mixture.
  • Remove coates ice cream ball from freezer and repeat double dipping Cover and freeze for several hours (I prefer overnight: who has the time to do this after work on a Friday?)
  • Fry frozen ice cream balls 91 to 2 at a time) in deep hot oil at 350 degrees in deep frying pan for 15 seconds or until golden brown. Drain a few seconds and then return to freezer while frying remainder. Serve immediately with ice cream topping. I use that gooey Hershey's chocolate and keep it simple. I toss a few canned lychees as garnish as I served lychee margarita

Week in Wine

27 04 2006

Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc
2005 Charles Krug Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($17)
2004 Courtney Benham Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($14)
2004 Duckhorn Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($25)
2005 Girard Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($15)
2005 Grgich Hills Napa Valley Fumé Blanc ($25)
2005 Groth Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($18)
2004 Markham Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($14)
2004 Mason Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($16)
2005 Robert Pecota L’Artiste Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($15)
2005 St. Supery Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($19)
2005 Sterling Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($15)
2005 Two Wives Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($15)

Shanghai Tea
2 ounces Hennessey XO Cognac
1 ounce brewed green tea
1 ounce Pomegranate juice
1 splash fresh lime juice
1 lime wedge, for garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full of ice and add all of the ingredients. Shake for approximately 15 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Add the garnish.

Ad Aware

26 04 2006

The current highly aggressive campaign by the AIDS Foundation of Chicago has come in for some heavy criticism. I imagine the creators are attempting to highlight the jarring disconnect between glossy trendy images (each image targets a behavior; for example, the sample one to your left addresses barebacking, the increasingly dangerous practice of unsafe sex) and the tragedy of emerging virulent medication resistant strains of HIV. AIDS awareness has been eclipsed by more trendy disorders as it is no longer viewed as a cataclysmic plague: you go to a benefit dinner, drop a few hundred, shake hands with a minor celebrity (“I was on Celebrity Survivor”) and politely clap when the drag queen gets his kit off. For those who think the series of print ads glamorizes AIDS, I think they are wrong – stylish people should know that trends don’t last forever. AIDS, herpes and breast cancer, like diamonds, are forever.

Railway Tea

24 04 2006

M liked my Railway Tea. Incorrectly known Stateside as Bombay tea, it was advocated by the colonial English as a safe way of sustaining thirst while on the most expansive rail system in the Indian subcontinent. Boiling would kill diarrheogenic bugs, it was hoped.

For a quart of Railway tea, bring to a boil 2 cups still water, 4 whole cloves, 1 stick of cinnamon, 4 cardamom pods (cracked open) and a few sprigs of lemon grass. Let stand as long as possible and then add 1/4C loose black tea (I use orange pekoe or bergamot-flavored Earl Gray). The equivalent is 4 tea bags, and let steep. Then add 2C fat free milk and heat but do not boil. If you boil, it creams on the surface and burns at the edges. Not good. Strain and add 4 tbs of single blossom honey. Stir and simmer. Serve piping hot.

Web Travel

23 04 2006

Most Popular Travel Websites (by traffic)

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  5. Lonely Planet
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  16. World Travel Guide
  17. HotelsTravel
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