Foodie Tuesdays: Absurdly Processed Meat Products

I like to think I'm not that much of a food snob.  I certainly don't need to spend a lot of $$$ on food to be happy--I get just as much joy out of a $1.50 plate of noodles as I do out of the $240 I spent on a meal at French Laundry.  I rarely rule out foods entirely.  Even eggplant and okra, which I usually abhor, I will give a chance depending on how it's cooked.  I guess that's just it.  A food has to be made with purpose and authenticity for me to really enjoy it.

The exception being processed meat.

I don't care what you all say.  I love processed meat products.  Maybe because they are nothing but fat and salt that come in neat oblong little packages.  Maybe because they have the consistency of meat flavored jell-O.  Whatever it is, I can't resist.  Who cares if, as it says on, they lead to cancer?  Below are some of my favorites:

1. Vienna sausages
2. Carl Buddig deli-sliced meats
3. Spam (especially in masubi and kimchi fried rice)
4. Baloney
5. Dino-bites
6. Imitation crab
7. Fishballs
8. White Castle Burgers

Update: Dude! How could I forget Slim Jims!

(Late) Foodie Tuesday: Leeks

Ok, I took the concept from an article in this month's Bon Appetit.  It just sounded so delectable I had to go straight to the grocery store and buy me some leeks.  The article was correct in observing that Americans generally don't know what to do with leeks, other than throwing them dubiously into potato leek soup.  Whereas Europeans, especially Belgians and French, treat it as a staple along with carrots, onions and potatoes.

One of the most versatile ways to prepare leeks, said the article, is to make a confit.  This is done by melting a decent amount of butter, and saute-ing the leeks in it with some water and salt until they are limp and tender (about 20 min.).  Then you can do pretty much anything you want with them (the article suggested Belgian leek tart).  I paired my confit with slow-scrambled eggs, and also crumbles of feta cheese over saltines, nuked in the microwave for 10-20 seconds.  Simply delicious.  Someday I will make the leek tart also.

Foodie Tuesdays: Pancakes!

I've had pancakes on the brain lately  Not just any pancakes, of course.  Weird and different pancakes, and pancake-like things!  Read on and enjoy (numbers correspond to pictures):

1. The Dutch Baby: An airy bowl-shaped pancake derived from the German Apfelpfannkuchen (apple pancake).  Typically eaten with lemon juice and powdered sugar.
2. Injera: Spongy, sour flat bread made out of teff flour (a grass native to Ethiopia) and eaten with Ethiopian, Somalian and Eritrean foods.
3. Popover: Airy roll-like thing made of egg batter and baked (especially nice with butter and jam!).  An American invention.
4. Rava Dosa: Made with rava or semolina, a lacy variation of the popular South Indian dosa.  Served with requisite dipping sauces.
5. Buckwheat Pancakes: Like normal pancakes, except the addition of dark and complex buckwheat gives it a more intense, sometimes almost bitter flavor.
6. Blini: Small thin pancakes typically eaten with cream and caviar.  A symbol of the sun to pre-Christian Slavic peoples.  By Russian tradition, the first blin is almost always destroyed while frying.
7. 葱油饼 (or cong you bing): Otherwise known as 'scallion pancakes,' layers of dough separated by oil and green onions.  Delicious with soy sauce =)
8. Yorkshire Pudding: Originated in Yorkshire, another eggy, fatty thing served with some kind of meat (great with prime rib) and gravy.
9. Swedish Pancakes: Thin and flat, similar to French crepes, served with jam and cream or savory filliongs: pea soup on Thursdays.
10. Masala Dosa: Originated in Udupi, India.  A giant crepe made of rice and lentil flour, rolled into a huge tube and stuffed with potatoes spiced with turmeric.  Served with sambal on the side.
11. Roti Paratha: A Malaysian specialty that marries the Indian paratha and the Chinese cong you bing.  The best examples are thin, crispy, and delightfully layered.  Most often served with some delicious chicken curry sauce, but can also be eaten with white sugar for breakfast.

Foodie Tuesdays: European Imports

None of the following 4 food items quite merited their own entry, so I am combining them.  The only thing they have in common is their snackiness, and the fact that they are imported from Europe.

Le Petit Ecolier, or Lu Schoolboy Cookies: Gotta thank Wendy for first introducing me to these heavenly little treats.  Having these, I don't really need to keep any other kind of cookie around.  They aren't much to look at, but it's exactly as it's marketed: a smooth rich slice of quality chocolate (my favorite is Dark) on top of a delicate butter biscuit.  I have to control myself when eating them.

Chupa Chups: I think the first person to tell me about these cream-delicious lollipops from Barcelona, Spain was my old neighbor, Irene.  As long as you're asking for cavities, you might as well suck on a high-class lollipop, is my thinking.

Mozartkugeln: First encountered these bonbons on my first trip to Austria.  One of the more delightful things to come out of that country (along with the von Trapp family singers)--layers of chocolate and nougat wrapped around a delightfully squidgy pistachio marzipan center.  I'm talking about mozartkugeln by Mirabell, but the original maker was Furst.  Hahaha.  How appropriate.

Taralli: Christian first told me about these Italian specialties when I was in NYC two months ago, and we were traversing the city on foot like we always do, grazing along the way.  We found them in this fancy olive oil shop in West Village.  I tried one--dense, crunchy and flavorful, especially if you like cracked peppercorns and olive oil.  It's like a cross between a pretzel and a bagel, I guess...except they come in these small little knots that are perfect for snacking.  I picked up a package in Boston's North End.  And I'm almost out!

Foodie Tuesdays: Curry Goat

Rewind to the summer of 2002.  I was in the midst of my first truly independent summer, interning for Dutton Children's Books (a subsidiary of Penguin Putnam) on Hudson and Houston in New York City for two glorious months.  Come lunchtime, though, it was a bit of a struggle to find something decent to eat for a decent price.  I wasted much stomach space on mediocre snack-cart knishes and (ew) salads. 

Until one day, I was poking around looking for Peanut Butter & Co. after seeing it featured on the Food Network.  Having found it, though, I found myself inexplicably drawn to the hole-in-the-wall takeout counter nestled adjacent to it.  I eyed it for at least a couple weeks before finally deciding to take the plunge.  I can't remember, but I think it was my first encounter with Jamaican food.  I think I'd heard about jerk chicken, but something else on the menu caught my eye--the curry goat

Now, I love curry, and I love lamb.  For me, goat did not seem like much of a leap.  I ordered up some for maybe like $6, took the steaming parcel to a bench in the middle of West 4th, sat down and dug in.

Oh, heaven.

The curry was remarkably strong, complex, savory.  Little pleasure receptors in my brain were tingling.  I savored every morsel of tender meat, and when I got down to them, I even sucked the saucy marrow out of the beautifully thick, white bones.  It half occurred to me that these made the perfect kind of bones you'd want to give your dog to chew on.  But I couldn't be bothered with that, because I was enjoying myself too much =)

The take-out counter, Jamaican Flavors, has since closed.  I was so disappointed and broken-hearted when I discovered this in May 2008.  But it looks like this new place, blogged about on, might be a good runner-up to try next time I'm in the Big Apple.  Photo borrowed without permission.

NEW! Foodie Tuesdays

At the risk of over-posting, I was inspired to start another couple sets of weekly installments.  You can tell me if it's working or not, and I can see how long I can keep it up.  These will, of course, correspond with some of my favorite topics.

I thought it'd be nice to dedicate one day of the week to sharing some kind of slightly oddball food item, one that you might not have heard of or might not have thought of in a while.  This week: frozen custard.

According to our dear reference Wikipedia, it is "a cold dessert similar to ice cream, made with eggs in addition to cream and sugar. It typically contains 10% butterfat and 1.4% egg yolk."  It's a delicacy apparently widespread in the Midwest and East Coast, and all but non-existent anywhere west/south of the Rockies.  A coworker friend of mine just encountered it during her weekend trip to Chicago, and came back raving about it.  I have never had it, but I'd love to try.  How can you ever go wrong with eggs and milk?