Saturday, March 30, 2013

Is it Wrong to Cook Rabbit for Easter?

So we have a group of friends who are not, shall we say, very reverent towards traditions.  We get together for Easter Dinner, sit at the table, and dine on rabbit.  Stewed, braised, fricasseed, we feast on the bunny.   Being irreverent, naturally we are fans of Anthony  Bourdain and his seeming disregard for societal niceties.  And that is why this is one of our favorite recipes for rabbit:
We actually had the opportunity to meet him once, at a cookbook signing/ dinner based on his recipes held at a local restaurant.  I was so impressed to be in the same room as Bourdain that sadly the only dish I remember was the Roulade of Wild Pheasant main course.  All evening while we were dining, I watched him circulate through the room, chatting up each table.  He seemed pleasant.  He seemed polite.  I heard no crass language or swear words.  Was this an imposter?  So when  it came time to pick up our copy of the cookbook and we dutifully lined up to get ours signed by the author, I was expecting no more than a short and polite chat.  My Aussie husband had other ideas.  The first words out of his mouth were “Thank you for calling my country a ‘bullshit-free’ zone.”  Well let me tell you, THAT got a response!  Bourdain immediately commented on the terrific seafood and lamb available in Australia, and then he said something very offensive.  He referred to Vegemite as crap.  My Aussie husband immediately countered with “those are fighting words”, and then they were at each other, doing a chest bump.  Or trying to, as Anthony is a very tall man.  He then signed our cookbook, calling my husband a version of a “sorry-assed Aussie”.  My faith in him was restored; he was really like the person we knew from his TV programs and his books.  And yes, he did sign our book "To you sorry-ass Aussie - 2 Victor Bravos NOW!!"   
I will remember that fun evening this weekend as I cook his rabbit recipe.  (Btw, in his Les Halles cookbook, it is called Lapin Aux Olives) 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spice Up your Life!

For one of our first dates, my soon-to-be Aussie husband invited me to dinner at his apartment.  When I walked in the door, these wonderful smells surrounded me; he was cooking Indian food.  As I was a novice Indian food eater, I hung around the kitchen watching the action.  He had a pot bubbling away with some mixture that looked like lentils, (dal) he had some other meat stew simmering on the stove, (pork vindaloo) and he was frying some seed things in oil until they popped. (mustard seeds and dry urad dal)  I was fascinated.  Trying to keep out of the way, I stepped over by the pantry and being nosy, peered in.   On those shelves were jars and packets of things I had never heard of.  Garam Masala.  Lime pickle.  Sambal Manis.  What were these strange and wondrous things?   
My mother – bless her Midwestern heart – had about 10 different spices in the house, the most exotic being Marjoram - which for my entire childhood had the same level of dried herb in the jar.   Because we had lived in Japan for a while, she managed to broaden her horizons with soy sauce and fresh ginger.  That was the extent of my exposure to spice.  

Well, this experience with Indian food started me down a long (and ever-growing) path of going to ethnic markets and picking up jars of things that look interesting.  Indian and Asian seem to have the most variety, but there are also Middle Eastern additions like sumac and rose water that have caught my eye.  And now I have a spice/condiment cupboard that looks like this.  What a happy sight!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Farmer’s Markets

So yesterday I went to a local Farmer’s Market (or “market” as it is called in the rest of the world) as it was Sunday, and that is when they are open in the Seattle area.  There are a few neighborhood markets open other days of the week, but as I work during the week it is not practical to get to them.  These local markets are a fairly new phenomenon in this part of the world; I think it is a response to all the concerns of the engineered food supply sold in the supermarkets.  It is interesting to note that most of the stalls are serious about offering organic products, and the food is always locally grown.  It is exciting to me, as I feel like we are finally catching up to at least Europe, where this has been going on for a very long time, and maybe Asia where it has been happening much longer.  Each time I have been to Europe – France especially – I find out when each town in the area has their market day and make a point of going there.  Some of the most amazing food is offered at these places!  My favorite (so far) is the Saturday market in Sarlat-la-CanĂ©da in the Dordogne region.  Even on a rainy day it is beautiful!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Breakfast in Singapore

I was thinking some more about breakfast, particularly breakfast in Singapore, which made me think about the hawker centers – those glorious buildings filled with some of the most awesome food stalls I have ever seen.  Ok, so maybe I haven’t seen that many food stalls in different places, but still… !   
They are scattered throughout the city, many featuring ethnic food common to the neighborhood that surrounds them, like the Tekka Centre in the predominately Indian area, or The Maxwell Road Hawker Centre in Chinatown.  Others have a mix of just about anything from anywhere, with nothing that defines a meal as “breakfast” as we know it.  On our first morning, while taking a stroll - before the heat became oppressive - we found ourselves near Tiong Bahru and spied a place that looked promising.  My Aussie husband made a happy sound and headed straight for a stall that sold Laksa.  At 7am.  Spicy Prawn Laksa – it’s what’s for breakfast!    I had a much more sedate bowl of congee with dried shrimp.  On subsequent days we tried  as many different places as we could track down with our trusty Lonely Planet guide book.    (This was a few years ago, before smartphones were common and we did not have one.  Not sure how we survived!)   
Parathas with potatoes and peas at Tekka.  Char Kway Teow at Victoria Street Centre.  Tom Yum at Golden Mile.  One thing I noticed everywhere was the Chicken Rice stalls.  I almost passed them all by, as the dish just did not sound interesting.  Chicken.  Rice.  A couple of dipping sauces.  I could make that at home!   The guide book kept mentioning it as an almost “national dish” so we finally got a plate to see what all the fuss was about.  What is difficult to convey through words and pictures is the depth of flavor they can achieve in this simple dish.   The moral we learned was definitely do not judge a dish by it’s appearance.
Doesn't look like much, does it?