Wednesday, January 30, 2008


These are very delicate egg and parmesan noodles from the Romagna region served in broth.

Given how few ingredients this has, this is only going to be as good as the ingredients you use. Specifically the broth. Thankfully, the CC always has some frozen in his freezer. (Commercial is flat out not going to work.)

The CC's didn't turn out perfect (dough needed to be firmer) but they were delicious.


7 cups broth
1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs
3/4 cup parmesan
2 eggs
salt and pepper



Mix all the ingredients (not the broth), and make a dough of it.

We are going to use the largest setting of a food mill to pass the dough into the broth.

Bring the broth to a boil, and drop the noodles into it. Let it boil for no more than 2 minutes.

Passatelli in brodo

Monday, January 28, 2008

Pollan's Principle

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly vegetarian.

The above is due to Michael Pollan whom the CC deeply respects (even on the few occasions when he disagrees with him, and even though the Berkeley-preachy earth-mother persona gets a little tiresome.)

It's basically a credo for food, and within each lie a few subtleties.

The first one is, paradoxically, the hardest. If not food, then what? What Pollan means however is a little more precise:

"Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize."

The CC will add an addendum: "Don't eat anything someone's great-grandmother wouldn't recognize."

The CC knew his great-grandmother till age thirteen, and is quite confident that she would not have thought of sushi as food. However, food it is as legions of Japanese great-grandmothers undoubtedly would tell you.

The point is simple : if you don't recognize the ingredient, or can't pronounce it, don't eat it.

Modified food starch? Soy lecithin? Ethoxylated diglyceride?


The economic pattern driving this is clear. If you cook from scratch, there is very little that companies can sell you. Hence, the drive for "convenience", or "enhanced nutrition", etc.

But if you eat a nutritionally varied diet, there is no need for "enhancement" so that one is pretty much bullshit straight out of the bull. The "convenience" part you will have to tangle with yourself. The CC cannot help you there.

Lest it not be clear, the CC's repeats his position: processed food = bullshit food.

The second point should be self-evident. We live in a world of excess not of starvation like our ancestors. Eat till you are 80% full, as they say.

The most important part is to have a healthy relation with your food. The key is balance. Remember that fat-phobia and carb-phobia are media creations, and they have no basis in science (the CC will be happy to elaborate at bloody length, and bore the living crap out of anyone who's interested.)

In short, enjoy your food, and make peace with your personal demons, whatever they may be.

The CC has made his peace with duck confit, lard and goose fat. Not to be eaten frequently but nevertheless to be savored and celebrated in moderation.

That's a natural segue into the last point.

The health argument for eating "mostly" vegetarian is overwhelming. The flavor argument for many a fish and meat is equally overwhelming. However, we are best served by treating meat as a herb or a spice (which is exactly what you will see in Italy, incidentally) than as a foundation of a meal. The fish issue used to be more straightforward in days of yore but in modern times, there are other issues with it like ingesting mercury, etc.

Incidentally, this brings us to something that deeply rankles the CC to his core.

It's the inability of US Dept. of Agriculture to talk about issues related to nutrition in an honest manner. The reason is clear -- at the intersection of food and economics, the money masters win out.

It is their policy that the so-called "food pyramid" be done in a way that "agrees with American tastes". Never mind the fact that nobody knows what "American" tastes are. They seem to embrace everything from pizza and fried calamari to pad thai and phô but the bureaucrats have some peculiar notions.

The pyramid must be designed to "American tastes", and it can't be changed; and why can't you change it? Well, because it would go against "American tastes".

Hellooo, Heller!

The reality as anyone with an iota of a brain can figure out is that lentils and legumes are superior to meats both economically and nutritionally. You could eat for a month for the same price that you are paying for a single meal, and you can take the difference in money to make all the meals vastly more interesting and diverse (thus satisfying George Orwell's criticism as well.) Kudos to the Washington Post for pointing this out a few years ago!

(For those interested, the Guardian has generously printed the entire last chapter of Pollan's book.)

Once again then, the CC reiterates Pollan's principle:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly vegetarian. With pleasure!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sicilian Pasta with Broccoli (Redux)

The CC has posted this recipe before but the recipe's magnificence calls for pictures.

Tantalize your senses, readers, and swear an oath to make it.

Veritably, the anchovy-infused tomato-soaked raisins bursting in your mouth along with the textural crunch of the pine nuts and the intoxicating saffron smell will make true believers out of you!


1 large onion (finely diced)
4-5 anchovies
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 large broccoli (cut into small florets)
2 tbsp tomato paste (homemade)
1 large pinch saffron
salt and pepper
olive oil

shaved pecorino (or parmigiano-reggiano)

1 cup rigatoni.


First up the mise-en-place.

Fry the onion at a medium-low heat until soffrito.

Add the anchovies and fry for about another minute.

Add the tomato paste, fry for a bit.

Add some water along with the raisins and pine nuts, salt and pepper to taste.

Add the broccoli and cook until slightly under done. The saffron should go in towards the very end otherwise its delicate fragrance will disappear.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta slightly under al dente, and add it to the sauce. Heat, and serve.

The pasta should be thoroughly covered with the delicate saffron sauce, and will be tinged golden because of it.

Shave a modest amount of cheese over each serving. The dish has a really delicate taste where all flavors are key partners so be careful not to overwhelm.

Golden ambrosia!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Too Clever By Halves?

OK, they are truly brilliant chocolatiers, and the CC has been promised some chocolates by this master if he dashes to LaGuardia to collect them from the guest with the connecting flight. ("Hells yeah! Like wild dogs could stop me.")

Theobromine, anyone?

Monday, January 21, 2008


What is talk about art doing on a food blog? And who is Juan Sánchez Cotán?

Cotán's stark still-lifes with their dark background, and geometric flair are almost sculptures. The foods are distinct; they do not even touch at the edges; and their is no apparent connection between them besides their shapes. They are naturalistic but they elevate the role of the "still life" genre to more than just a pretty arrangement.

They also look forward to the Cézanne's proto-cubist apples precariously and awkwardly posed on surfaces that they seem to be continuously rolling off of. And since Cotán was a recognized Spanish master (1560-1627) there is no doubt that Picasso was intimately familiar with his work.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Hungry Planet

The CC will let the numbers and the presence of processed food (= bullshit food) speak for themselves! (Source: Hungry Planet: What the World Eats.)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Lewis Carroll

“The rule is jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never jam today.”

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Little Sympathy? Anybody?

Sometimes the newspapers get it right. This one is from the New York Times: With Kimchi, a Little Alchemy.

SOME people collect stamps, others vintage bartender guides or mounted rare butterflies. I’m cultivating a prodigious collection of condiments that is slowly taking over the fridge, much to my husband’s dismay.

“Why do we need nine kinds of mustard and three types of prune spread?” he asked recently. “And when was the last time you used brine-packed green peppercorns?”

For someone who cooks a lot, an arsenal of strongly flavored condiments is a powerful secret weapon. Even when there is nothing in the house to eat, I can whip up a meal from the contents of many jars mixed with pasta, or meat excavated from the freezer. Some of my best culinary feats have come out of such condiment alchemy.

The CC ignored the rest of the article. There was something about kimchi or some such.

Who cares? Just go to Koreatown!

The CC likes the sentiment though because the CC's fridge is overflowing.

Condiments, extracts, flours and spices in the main chamber; broths, flours, pastes, and sauces in the freezer.

The CC needs a second fridge.

Needs, wants, craves.

Somebody empathize. All you who eat here tonight? Anyone?!?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Where in the World...

... is the Crazy Chef?

Well, the CC is around but he's been busy. Busy practicing his omelette skills, that's what.

Unfortunately, as easy as it is to make, pictures are really hard to take. Omelettes call for fast action and supple wrists.

Want to make your omelette special?

Take a few tips from the Indians (=green chillies) and the Italians (=diced anchovies) and combine them!

If you're lazy (which the CC knows you are!) just add a dash of nahm pla (= liquid anchovies.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008


The popular Tunisian breakfast soup. Born in poverty but fit for kings.

You will see many variations on this. However, the basic idea is simple. Chickpeas, garlic, harissa, cumin, lemon, served over dried bread.

The CC likes to add finely minced onions to give a richer base. (This is also quite traditional.)

Sometimes a soft-boiled egg is cracked open on top. Sometimes olives are added. At other times, capers (all keeping in tune with its essential Mediterranean character.)

The CC serves it with the spiced barley bread, naturellement!


1 large red onion (finely minced)
2 cups chickpeas (soaked overnight)
4-5 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 tbsp harissa
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp caraway
juice of 3-4 lemons
salt to taste

dried crusty bread


Soak the chickpeas overnight.

Cook them (along with the cumin, caraway and some salt) in a pressure cooker till they are almost done. You don't want them too mushy. Some texture is needed. If you don't have a pressure cooker, cook them over a medium heat in a stockpot. You will need to keep skimming the top.

The cooked chickpeas.

Fry the onions and garlic at medium heat.

Add the harissa, and continue frying. At this point in time, you will sneeze from the intense smell. Do not be alarmed. This is completely normal. (If you don't sneeze, you haven't used enough harissa because you are a wimp, and the Universe will resonate in sheer glee at the extent of your wimpitude!)

The fried mixture.

Add the chickpeas, and mash gently with a masher. Let it simmer at medium heat for 10 minutes. You will need to stir periodically.


Lablabi (served with olives and a lemon wedge)

Tunisian Spiced Barley Bread

Rustic in origin, this is not a bread meant to be eaten alone but rather more like a rusk used to flavor or thicken a soup/stew. Served crumbled into the most modest of modest soups, this bread elevates the complexity level thanks to the rich flavoring of the barley, caraway and fennel.

This particular recipe also illustrates the very Tunisian trait of making something, and then tearing it up to use the pieces to make something anew.

Also, since traditionally ovens were a luxury, if you find yourself without one, just toast the dough over a dry skillet on both sides.


1 tsp yeast
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/4 cup barley flour (substitute with "millet flour")
1 cup fine semolina flour
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp salt
olive oil


Start with the dry yeast and the sugar, and some warm water (not hot water!)

After 15 mins, the mixture should start bubbling telling you that the yeast are alive.

Add the barley flour, semolina flour, salt, caraway and fennel seeds (all seen.) Add water a small amount at a time, and knead to a ball of dough. The dough will be soft but pliable.

Add a tablespoon of olive oil and rotate the dough to cover it all over. Cover it with a plastic sheet and let it rise for at least 2 hours.

The dough after two hours.

Lay the dough on a piece of foil, and flatten gently with your fingertips till you get a flat round. Preheat the oven to 425F and let the dough sit for at least another 30 minutes while the oven heats. Score the dough with a knife as shown so that you can break it along those lines.

Bake the bread for 30 minutes. Here's the final outcome. Break the bread along the scored lines.

The Spiced Flatbread

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Fiery. Intense. Unforgettable.

This Tunisian chilli-paste lends a formidable flavor to soups and stews. You can buy store-bought but why bother when it's so easy to make.

When the paste is fried it will let off an intense smell of chillies which is completely overpowering but the final product will have a complex layered heat that is hard to duplicate.

Traditionally, it was stored under a layer of oil but with modern refrigeration you can just freeze it. The CC always has some in his freezer, and considers it part of his "necessities".


2 oz dried red hot chilli peppers
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp ground caraway
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
olive oil (preferably extra virgin)


Soak the chilli peppers in hot water for at least 30 minutes. Remove them, and add all the ingredients to a food processor, and process adding tablespoons of the same hot water until you get a paste.

You can put it in a jar and cover it with olive oil (or just freeze as mentioned above.)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Bored of Water?

Try some cucumber-orange water!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Food for Idiots : A Top Ten list

What would a New Year be without a food rant?

The modern world has given us many wonders including flushable toilets and antibiotics but why has it produced such food travesties?

Unsurprisingly many are American, and a direct outgrowth of its Puritanical approach to anything sensual. Sensuality is pleasurable and hence must be deeply suspect or some such garbage.

The rest is an outgrowth of the loonie vegan movement and its deep disregard for history, common-sense, and nutrition.

Here's the list of Culinary Hindenburgs:
  1. cheese in a can ("the CC fuckin' kids you not!")
  2. decaffeinated coffee
  3. non-alcoholic beer
  4. "white" chocolate
  5. tofurkey ("kill me, kill me now!")
  6. fat-free frittata
  7. low-carb bread
  8. gluten-free bread ("how? bread = gluten, quite literally!")
  9. "vegetarian" Thai food
  10. "flavored" martinis ("gin, gin, gin!")

† Every time you flush, remember that you are enjoying a luxury that Marie Antoinette never had. Don't trust the CC? Go check out the Palace at Versailles!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Malaysian Fast Food

What better way to welcome a New Year than Malaysian fast food featuring "fried jellyfish"?

It's called pasembur, and being a street dish, the CC is sure it has myriads of incarnations. This rendition featured the afore-mentioned jellyfish, tofu, hard-boiled eggs, bean sprouts, cucumber, and turnips in delicious sweet-salty sauce.

The CC also ate asam laksa which is definitely not for the faint of heart. Features noodles in a tamarind broth heavily laden with shrimp paste. Definitely an acquired taste but then what interesting food isn't?

An exotic farewell to the previous year, and a scrumpalicious beginning to the present!