Monday, September 29, 2008

It's Biscuit Time!

Bread is one of the quintessential food staples that unites most cultures on earth through its innumerable incarnations. Bread has been integral to the diet of countless peoples, aligning itself in a shared destiny with humans as grain crops dominated agricultural practices. Steven L. Kaplan is a scholar interested in the cultural and culinary history of bread, demonstrating that bread was and remains the lifeblood of French society and diet. Bread stands as a social and gastronomic equalizer, adorning French tables from the lowliest peasant in Bordeaux to the wealthiest bourgeois in Paris. Bread is clearly a big deal and I happen to find it quite delicious though I seldom bake and sadly did not inherit my mother’s passion for flour, salt, and water. She is truly a wonderful baker. As far as food goes, one of my favorite parts of visiting her upstate is the delectable baguettes she whips up virtually from scratch (I am working on the art, hopefully a recipe for the Parmesan and caramelized onion baguettes will be available soon!). Needless to say, I am a fan of bread and who isn’t really? What is wrong with the tasty roll, crunchy baguette, dense black bread, or occasional olive or nut loaf besides the irrationally and unjustly feared carbohydrate component? The other day Valerie had a craving for biscuits and wanted to try a recipe inspired by a biscuit she experienced recently at a cafe in the Lower East Side. I love biscuits though I do not encounter them often enough and rarely have cravings for them...until now. These are really delicious and very easy to make with few ingredients and minimal effort required, I suggest making them for your next brunch as we did with some scrambled eggs.

Savory Biscuits with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Feta, and Spinach

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp sun dried tomatoes, minced

1 tbsp olive oil

3/4 cup chopped spinach
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese

2 1/4 cup Bisquick

2/3 cup whole milk

1. Briefly sauté garlic until just
beginning to color in olive oil.
2. Mix tomatoes, cooked garlic, spinach, and feta in a bowl.

3. Prepare biscuit dough with Bisquick and milk in a second bowl. Incorporate the other ingredients with your fingers and form into balls.
4. Bake on a cookie sheet for 16 minutes give or take depending on your oven. Eat.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thursday Farmer's Supper

When I moved from California to New York City last year, one of my main concerns was access to seasonal, organically farmed fresh produce that is the norm in Los Angeles and Santa Cruz. Upon my arrival during the height of the summer season to the delicious corn and heirloom tomatoes of August, I began to visit regularly the Union Square Greenmarket, one of hundreds of farmer's markets that pepper the five boroughs making farm fresh produce available to the city’s residents. I have four markets within a twenty-minute walk of my apartment held at different times of the week. I was and continue to be pleasantly surprised by the myriad markets and the variety of delicious produce, meats, dairy products, flowers, and processed (canned, juiced, bottled) foods offered. A favorite is the Columbia farmer's market, a tiny market with 5 or 6 vendors only, conveniently located near my apartment in the Upper West Side and which boasts particularly delicious cheeses (the cheddar is sharp and tangy, not to be missed!). One of my favorite activities is to shop at the farmer's market and bring home whatever catches my eye or is recommended by the vendors and improvise a delicious and minimally cooked meal at home, showcasing the ingredients’ natural flavors.

I agree with Wendell Barry that "eating is an agricultural, ecological, and political act" and that to eat with a fuller consciousness when it comes to what and how we eat is gratifying. Eating through farmer's markets allows one to access a wide selection of foods that are more healthful and delicious. Farmers at the Greenmarket typically describe the difference between their products and those imported or commercially grown with the simple statement that their carrot actually tastes like a carrot, their leek like a leek. In short, incorporating seasonal, local and organic foods into our lives is not as difficult as it may seem and is worth the additional effort for the freshest and most flavorful ingredients.

Last Thursday, I hosted a small dinner party for a few friends, two who are Buddhists. I thought it appropriate to cook a vegetarian meal featuring the produce from the farmer's market. Apart from the zucchini, charlotte potatoes, shallots, and white string beans purchased at the market, I used a bushel of delicious Cherokee purple tomatoes and a couple of heads of garlic from my mother's garden upstate in the Catskills. I simply roasted the potatoes with garlic, rosemary, and olive oil in a hot oven until lightly browned and crispy, a staple side dish with roast chicken. I grilled the sliced zucchini and topped them Italian-style with basil oil, a variation of pesto with fresh basil, garlic cloves, and olive oil pureed in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. This sauce is delicious, compatible with virtually everything and can be kept in the fridge for up to three weeks; I try to keep some available at all times. I made a simple arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette (olive oil, the juice of one lemon, black pepper) and freshly grated Parmesan. The tomatoes and beans made a cold salad that I have had many times with my family in France. Briefly steam or boil the beans to soften them a bit, peel and seed the tomatoes, thinly slice the shallots and combine in a large bowl. Prepare a simple French mustard-based vinaigrette with Dijon, white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Dress the tomato salad generously and top with chopped flat-leaf parsley. These recipes are very easy to make and delicious for both vegetarians and omnivores alike, it was a successful dinner party and hope to have converted my guests to supporters of farmer's markets. In the words of Gertrude Stein, ”nothing is more interesting than that something that you eat.” Enjoy and share delicious foods and cooked meals with yourself and others!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pomander Saveur Launch!

Hello dear readers! After a four month hiatus I am proud to announce the formal launch of my blog all things related to food and culture. For those of you unfamiliar with my blog or email list I am a young chef and anthropologist on a mission to expand my culinary talents and love of food which I will in turn share with others. Every post will be a different set of recipes I have prepared with friends and family inspired from meals I have eaten, cookbooks or magazines I have read, random recipes inherited from others, and finally improvisational creations thrown together on the fly. Every post will feature photographs of the food itself along with a brief explanation of the meal from all aspects of preparation, ingredients, consumption, sociability and some will feature the recipes themselves. I look forward to sharing my love of food with others and hopefully inspiring my readers to cook! Here is a little taste of things to come, Hoffman's Spicy Italian Pork and Chicken Sausages farmed and processed in Syracuse, New York! Enjoy!