Saturday, March 22, 2008

IS this a BUTTER BLOG? More obsessions revealed.

It could very well be. After recent gourmandine trysts with Monsieur le Beurre... in the form of extremely tasty butter croissants at Tartine (see pic) and Acme bread. AND, some 85% + fatty butter from Straus Family Creamery where they (from Saveur, Mar 08) "celebrate the variations." In spring and summer, their butter has a "yellower color" with a "slightly sweeter, herbaceous flavor" made from milk given by grass-fed cows. (Delicious, of course!)

Straus Family Creamery sublime salted butter. Sold-by-the-$2-stick (at BiRite and other stores).

(spread that on your sconehenge english muffin!)

On matters other than butter, I've succumbed to Williams-Sonoma's April catalog of delights. This is my latest obsession:

The three-quart saucier that I'm convinced will dispel my risotto woes (yes, dammit, I parboil my arborio! I learned this trick from the line cooks at a "trattoria" in Evanston. Mounds of half-cooked rice were drained and packed into square tubs, then scooped into 10-inch saute pans to finish with broth... Portabello. Pea, white onion and ham. Or, just pure, creamy parmiggiano risotto--perfect everytime. But, completely inauthentic, I gather).

I've tried a handful of times to make risotto the traditional way: toasting the rice with the aromatics; a hefty pot of stock
simmering at the ready; 1/2 cupfuls of patience and a wooden spoon. All for naught. I can still taste that first time in my little kitchen on Oak Avenue, ca. 1993. Steam from a too-shallow pan flying up in my face; the fruitless search for extra canned broth that would never save my risotto da inferno. The crunchy mass Stephen tried to eat before reverting to a pint of Ben and Jerry's (Chocolate Fudge Brownie, if I remember correctly) for dinner.

Anyway, in cooking, the right pan/utensil can solve lots of things. If only life were so sure.

Check out the cool video on how Le Creuset is made at the WS site.
(Making videos for WS is my dreamjob. Unfortunately, I did not shoot this video.)

Do you share my obsessions?

Limited-production Butter? Pricey French cookware? Let me know in a comment!

E -

More to come soon... Cabinet Curry, Freezer Dumplings. These are my chilly weather recipes. Hope to share them before we're all sporting tanktops in SF! If not, we'll surely think of something.

Monday, March 10, 2008

And, if that wasn't Spicybrowngirl enough for you...

(maybe, tuna and pepperocini's in the previous post is not your idea of spicy.)

Chorizo Bilbao is one of my very favorite things. I love to cook up my 'ghetto' paella chock full of shrimp, chicken, pimenton, peppers, peas and sizzling slices of this greasy, salty semi-cured Spanish sausage.

(OK. I confess. I do use arborio in my paella!)

See this beloved chorizo in action:

If you think that sizzles, visit to download the Spicy Browngirl Mix.

(aka Super Sounds for the Kitchen, Bedroom and Beyond.)

Spicy Brown Girl

track list

Al Otro Lado Del Rio – Jorge Drexler

War Ina Babylon – Max Romeo

Reggaeton Latino – Don Omar

Sunshine – Floetry

Rainy Dayz (feat Jah Rule) – Mary J Blige

Closer – Goapele

Fanatic – Vivian Green

Brother Sister – Brand New Heavies

Love Rain – Jill Scott

Sometimes – Erykah Badu

Your World - Common

What's in the cabinet-cookery returns.

Today, we play with canned tuna found lingering in the cabinet.

WHY? you ask.

(For a wee frugal feast.)

Were you menaced with canned tuna as a child? Whether its unique aroma plagued your superheroes lunchbox, or you were greeted with the deadly tuna noodle casserole at dinnertime, it's safe to say, canned tuna gets as bad a wrap in the U.S. as instant mac-n-cheese. And, now that we're all a little older and much, much more sophisticated, we banish canned tuna from our chic existence. Oui, oui.

Well, as far as this tuna genre is concerned, I consider myself lucky. I was raised in the U.S. by immigrants, so I didn't discover tuna-as-cheap-food-staple until college. You know, there was actually a time when my mom bought canned tuna, but I think it was just for show-- some kind of mercy on us for when our 'white' friends came over. My brother slid the jars of bagoong and jackfruit to the back of the 'fridge, and we feigned tuna in the cabinet like everyone else. My dad, who did most of the cooking in the house, never touched them.

During college, I worked at nouveau diner that served a very serious tuna cheddar melt on cornbread. While its mayo goodness and ooey cheese complimented the salty, chunky salad well, an odyssey was born out of the fact that I wasn't exactly impressed... I didn't understand tuna salad until I came to San Francisco and had BiRite's housemade. It was a food moment.

Capers. Red onion. A curious lack of celery. Good mayonnaise. It was tuna salad reborn on my palette so much so that I never bothered to steal their recipe. I took a tub of it on the road when I moved from California to Colorado.

(I feel BiRite's house items kindof have goût de terroir. It's the micro-climate!--in the way NY bread has NY water.)

Smuggling tuna salad through the Sierras. I know it sounds crazy, but as a child I was terrorized by pots of oxtails (and tripe) in peanut butter sauce that simmered away on the stove for half a day. (My dad was always 'perfecting' it.) I had zero tuna trauma. It was a new taste.

Soon enough, I discovered tuna in olive oil. In Italy, where I tend to think there's also a lack of tuna disdain, it's called tonno in olio d'oliva. If you're trying to kick your mayo habit as I am these days, the olive oil offers a different take on richness. And, it's just the right ingredient to make a tuna salad for your chic, grown-up tastes. I borrowed the capers from BiRite's recipe, and add in pepperocini, crushed red pepper and extra drizzles of extra virgin olive oil from me.

A little decadence. A little bite.
Molto Chic Italian Tuna Salad

- 1 - 6 oz. can tuna packed in olive oil, drained
- 1 T. non-pareil capers, some juice
- 1 small shallot clove, thinly sliced
- 1 or 2 golden pepperocini, sliced into rings, to taste
- 1-2 t. extra virgin olive oil, the best you have, to taste
- 1 to 1 ½ t. lemon juice, meyer's are great

- kosher salt and ground peppercorn blend, to taste
- crushed red pepper flakes,optional
- white italian flatbread (like focaccia) or pita bread
- aioli, optional

Drain and place tuna in prep bowl. (You may want to add back some of the drained liquid depending on texture of the tuna.) Add capers, shallot (better than red onion!) and pepperocini. Mix gently with a spoon while breaking up the tuna. Add salt and pepper, olive oil and lemon. Mix gently again, then taste. Fix seasonings. Chill in refrigerator covered in plastic wrap.

Cut flatbread or pita into triangles or small squares just larger than bite-size. Toast until medium golden. Let cool slightly. Cover will small amount of aioli or olive oil mayo. Top with chilled tuna salad. Scatter thinly sliced shallot and-or pepperocini rings. Drizzle with your best extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.

Close your eyes. Imagine yourself reclining while tasting the azure Mediterranean air!

(Spicy bits.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

It's not called an "olive oil croissant" for a reason.

I won't start calling myself a "blutter'er" or a "but'ogger," but I can't wait to see how many bloggers do after reaching into their mailboxes this month and birthing "The Beauty of Butter" from Saveur, aka 'Playboy for Cooks.' If you didn't read all about it, contribs celebrate butter by glancing at it's controversial past when margarine surpassed U.S. butter consumption in the 80's, then sing a song of praise for its present popularity.

(US butter-lust could be a surrogate European vacation while the EURO kicks the USD on its bum.)

Butter has never been a bad'un in my book, but I wanted to share my own tale of butter lust...

On a recent visit, my sister said that butter is only really bad (the big BAD cholesterol) when it reaches past the smoking point. "Oh, really?" I said while patiently awaiting careful crisping , especially edge, on our multi-grain pancakes by cooking in small puddle of browned butter.

(Maybe she was saying this because her kids were watching.)

I was butter-obsessed as a child, I reminded her, snubbing bright
tubs of margarine mom bought in three-packs. I learned patience from my love of butter. I had to lop hard pats off a stick of unsalted butter for my bagels. First I toasted the bagel to soften the butter, then spread it carefully and then I toasted the bagel again, just long enough to watch the butter bubble-up hot and golden already anticipating the first warm, crunch. Warm. Butter. Crunch.

Over platters of crispy-edged pancakes and real maple syrup, we resigned ourselves to the fact that I will be taken out by a fate that can be directly and easily traced to my over-zealous relationship with food.
Chef-author Anthony Bourdain will likely share my food fate. In the New Yorker, he gave readers the straight dope on a much loved fat (from "Don't Eat Before Reading This," New Yorker, 1999):

"In the world of chefs, butter is everything. Even non-French restaurants... throw around butter like crazy. In almost every restaurant worth patronizing, sauces are enriched with mellowing, emulsifying butter. Pastas are tightened with it. Meat and fish are seared with a mixture of butter and oil. Shallots and chicken are caramelized with butter. It's the first and last thing in almost every pan; the final hit is called monter au beurre. In a good restaurant, what this all adds up to is that you could be putting away almost a stick of butter with every meal."
Monter au beurre.
It's not called an "olive oil croissant" for a reason.

(Miss Minnesota, butterized.)

Morning-After Wild Blueberry Muffins
(tops with that warm, butter crunch)

Want to know more about the science of butterfat or hear a geek's tale of homemade buttermaking. ? (or paste,

Want the recipe for the muffins? Please leave a comment and let me know. They're delicious!