Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Alfajores - a holiday baking idea from The Foodie Handbook

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Here's another recipe from my new book I'd like to share, and this is just the perfect time for it.  Aren't we all thinking about holiday baking these days?  Ok, if you're in Northern California you must be thinking freezing weather too - you've heard all the complaints on twitter I'm sure - so, what better than baking for an excuse to turn on your oven and warm up the house?

It will also be fun to do something slightly different than the usual sugar or gingerbread cookies, don't you agree?  I highly recommend these Alfajores, two buttery, crumbly cookies hugging the sweet dulce de leche (a sort of caramelized milk jam), your friends and relative will appreciate the novelty.  You may have to teach them how to say the name, al-fa-ho-res, but once they bite into these addictively delicious cookies, they won't mind one bit.

Don't let the fact that these cookies are so deliciously delicate - they seem to crumble under too intense a gaze - deter you.  While being made, the dough is so easy to work with it feels like Play-doh.

Continue reading "Alfajores - a holiday baking idea from The Foodie Handbook" »

Monday, November 30, 2009

Menu for Hope 6 - call for participation

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Yes, it's that time of year again.  We are now preparing for our annual Menu for Hope, this year it's Menu for Hope 6, or Menu for Hope VI, whichever you prefer.  I can hardly believe it's been six years that we've been at this, and our fourth year now in partnership with the UN World Food Programme.  As always, Menu for Hope cannot exist without your help, see if you can lend a hand?

Frequently Asked Questions

MFH6logo What is Menu for Hope?
Menu for Hope is an annual fundraising campaign hosted by me and a revolving group of food bloggers around the world.  Five years ago, the devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia inspired me to find a way to help, and the very first Menu for Hope was born. The campaign has since become a yearly affair.  For the past three years, Menu for Hope raised nearly a quarter of million dollars in support of the good work of the UN World Food Programme, helping to feed hungry people worldwide.

Each December, food bloggers from all over the world join the campaign by offering a delectable array of food-related prizes for the Menu for Hope raffle. Anyone – and that means you too - can buy raffle tickets to bid on these prizes. For every $10 donated, you earn one virtual raffle ticket to bid on a prize of their choice. At the end of the two-week campaign, the raffle tickets are drawn and the results announced on Chez Pim.

When will this year's campaign take place?
December 14 through Christmas. 

Who is the beneficiary of this year's campaign?
Once again we've chosen to work with the UN World Food Programme. WFP is the world’s largest food aid agency, working with over 1,000 other organizations in over 75 countries. In addition to providing food, the World Food Program helps hungry people to become self-reliant so that they escape hunger for good.

This year, we are supporting a new initiative at the WFP called Purchase for Progress (P4P).  P4P enables smallholder and low-income farmers to supply food to WFP’s global operation.  P4P helps farmers improves farming practices and puts more cash directly into their pockets in return for their crops.  This will also help buoy local economy by creating jobs and income locally.  We food bloggers understand the importance of buying locally and supporting our local farms, P4P helps do the same for farmers in low income countries around the world.  More on P4P at http://www.wfp.org/purchase-progress.

Who collects the money?
Certainly not me, nor the other bloggers participating on the campaign. We know our readers trust us, but we also want to be completely transparent in our fundraising. So, we use a very good online fundraising company called FirstGiving, who has worked with us since the first Menu for Hope years ago.

Donors can make an online (tax deductible) donation with a credit card. FirstGiving collects and processes the payments and, at the end of the campaign, transfers the donations in one lump sum to the WFP. This is a win-win situation for all parties involved. The bloggers never touch the money. The WFP don't waste overheads on processing mini-donations, the majority of which were between $10-$50, that's a whole lot of tenners to make up $90K.  Firstgiving does all the work and collects a small fee, which include the credit card processing charges.

Last year, FirstGiving gave back 1% of the total amount raised in lieu of a discount on their processing fee. Thank you FirstGiving, we appreciated it very much!

How can you help?

If you are a blogger:
Participate in Menu for Hope VI by hosting a raffle prize or by promoting Menu for Hope on your blog.  Please contact the MfH host in your area (the list is below) to obtain a prize code and be listed on the official Menu for Hope prize list.  (Important: please do this before you list your prize on your blog, unrecognized prizes will not be added to the main list.) 

The prize you offer need not be of high monetary value, but it should appeal to your readership. A small rule of thumb we'd like to suggest is that each prize offered should have the potential to raise at least $200. That means, don't offer a prize unless you are pretty sure you could get at least twenty of your readers to donate $10 for a raffle ticket toward that prize.

Please do not solicit prizes from restaurants or producers whom you do not know. A big part of our success in prior years came from the personal connections between bloggers, food producers/restaurateurs/authors, and the readers who donate to the campaign. Basically, if they know your name, it's ok. If you pick up the phone and introduce yourself and the person at the other end of the line goes "huh?", you shouldn't be asking them.

Each blogger is also responsible for shipping their prize to the winning donor. Make sure you have enough in your budget to cover shipping. It's important that you specify where your shipping area will cover when you offer the prize.  Frankly, we prefer that you don't restrict shipping area, but if you must, then please be very clear in your blog post so as not to confuse our donors.

Forward this post to all other bloggers you know so they can participate too.

Here are your local hosts for this year's Menu for Hope

US: West Coast (If you are closer to SF than you are to NY then you belong here.)
Shauna of Gluten Free Girl (glutenfreegirl[at]gmail[dot]com)

US: East Coast
Helen of Tartelette (mytartelette[at]gmail[dot]com)

Europe *and* the UK
David Lebovitz (david.lebovitz[at]yahoo[dot]com)

Canada
Tara of Seven Spoons (tara[at]sevenspoons[dot]net)

Asia Pacific, Australia, New Zealand
Ed Charles of Tomato (gastrotom[at]gmail[dot]com)

and, last but not least, our special Wine Blog Host
Alder of Vinography (alder[at]vinography[dot]com)

If you'd like to participate, please send your prize information (plus two images 75x75 thumbnail and 200x200px) to your local host so that they can give you a prize code (important!) and more instructions on what to do for Monday.

If you are a restaurateur, author or food producers/sellers:
Consider offering your products and services as raffle prizes. If you have a corportate blog, you can host the prize yourself. If you don’t, find a food blogger to host your prize. If you don't know any, contact Pim (chezpim[at]gmail[dot]com) or the local host in your area.

If you are a food blog reader or a food lover:
Come back to Chez Pim on Monday December 14 when the campaign goes online. You can browse our amazing array of prizes by type, or find a prize near you by searching by region. Bid on as many prizes as you'd like. Buy raffle tickets as holiday gifts to your loved ones. Just come back and check us out on December 10. Help us help the WFP end world hunger.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

via Pim, live from Japan

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For the next few days I'll be blogging live from Japan, Tokyo to be precise, on my new micro blog via Pim.  Why another blog, you asked, well, because I know the quality you - that would be you my readers - have come to expect here chez moi.  You expect the pictures to be good, and the posts to be interesting, informative, and useful.  But I've also been missing a little bit of that so-called old school blogging - that unscripted, off-the-cuff, live and raw quality of it.  I found myself tweeting a lot lately, probably because of that same kind of immediacy I've missed.  I've been tweeting bits and bites from the road and even from home, posting odd pictures from my iPhone, often unedited and of a quality perhaps a bit too dubious for Chez Pim.  But it's fun and it keeps up the connection with my blog readers and twitter followers even when I'm not blogging as often as I should.

Then, Typepad started a new free service (disclosure: no I'm not being paid to write this) Typepad Micro, which allows everyone to have a mini-blog that can be linked to Twitter and Facebook and any other social media services you use.  I'm blogging from my iPhone, and at the same time updating my Facebook and Twitter updates  How cool is that!  So, go check out via Pim, where I'm now blogging live from Japan! 

Get it, Chez Pim is chez moi, and via Pim is on the road, get it?  Geez I'm so cute it hurts ;-)

You can keep up on the world's most expensive melons - which I didn't buy - or hear me waxing poetic from a sushi restaurant during the meal, or how I ate all four of the cow's stomachs in one meal!  I'm off now to yet another dinner, this time at the famous Koju in Ginza.  Want to know if I liked it?  Give me an hour and go check via Pim.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Roast Chicken, Christian Delouvrier's way

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Recipes come to us in odd little ways.  I remember learning how to make truffle omelettes from a gigling, nearly toothless old lady in Southwest France.  Of course I took her seriously, she happened to be Marthe Delon, the famous truffle huntress who has been training a truffle-hunting pig a year for over 50 years.  She calls them all Kiki - couldn't be bothered to remember a new name each year, she said. 

This roast chicken recipe came to me from not so exotic a location but no less interesting a source.  The scene was the dining room at Manresa, the participants were Laurent Manrique, our dear friend and the famous chef of what I like to call the-dearly-departed-Aqua, his much-fairer-and-better-half Michelle, and yours truly.  We had just been served a deceptively simple truffle omelette.  Yes they certainly do omelettes at Manresa, hardly a greasy-countertop-diner-variety made from Nearly Eggless GooTM, but one comprised of Porcini puree, freshest farm eggs, and housemade salted butter, oh, yes, and a generous showering of white truffle at the table.  It's the kind of dish that made us stopped in our tracks.  "Elle m'a mise sur le cul", Laurent said of the dish, a French expression meaning something to the tune of being so gouud it knock' ya on yur ass, hon.  That got us talking about deceptively simple dishes that shocked us with their greatness.  That's when Laurent brought up this roast chicken recipe he learned from Christian Delouvrier. 

Continue reading "Roast Chicken, Christian Delouvrier's way" »

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The best fig tart, ever (a recipe from The Foodie Handbook)

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I could also call it the easiest fig tart, ever.  Really.  It has an astonishingly small list of ingredients: a pie crust*, some luscious figs, with a hidden layer of frangipane, which, despite the fancy-sounding French name, is simply a concoction of toasted almonds, sugar, butter, and egg that you can make easily in a food processor.  

The key to the magic here is the frangipane.  It's one of those things that sound far more difficult and fancy than they really are.  My frangipane recipe came from the one in Michel Bras fantastic Notebooks of Michel Bras: Desserts. It's basically equal quantity (by weight) of almond meal, butter, and sugar, with one egg to bind it all together.  That's a truly fantastic recipe, and one so versatile I find a use for it in practically all my fruit tarts, from the summery stone fruits to the fall harvest of pears and apples.  Right about now, with melting soft and tantalizingly sweet figs make an appearance all over the place, you can make a fig tart with a base of this frangipane and it will turn even the most ardent fig hater into a lover. 

Continue reading "The best fig tart, ever (a recipe from The Foodie Handbook)" »

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How to make a crispy fruit crumble

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I don't know about you, but I think all this talk about baking being a-precise-science-and-all-that is scaring a lot of people away from baking.  I mean, I'm sure baking a ten-layer wedding cake or five hundred tarts may well be precise science.  But baking just a pie or a few cookies, that's hardly more so than making a simple bowl of soup.  

So, if you're one of those people, I have just a recipe for you to try.  Or even if you're not, try it anyway, it's so simple and so good, you'll thank me for it later.  (Hold it with the proposals though boys, I am otherwise occupied.)

This is going to be the easiest dessert you’ll ever make.  Really it will.  It’s basically comprised of two parts, an unusually crisp crumble topping, which comes together in minutes, and a fruit filling, which can be just about any fruit in abundance at the moment.  At my market, stone fruits are just about done.  So I'm sending them off with the last hurrah with the French prune plums - quetsches as they're called over there. 

Continue reading "How to make a crispy fruit crumble" »

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Foodie Handbook, the movie!

Ok, not really, just a video trailer we did for the book. Watch it and enjoy (I hope.)

You can also see it in HD on YouTube.

And if you're in the New York area I hope to see you tomorrow at the beautiful Rizzoli bookstore for a cocktail reception and my very first book signing!

Rizzoli

Rizzoli Bookstore

31 West 57th Street (between 5th & 6th Avenues)

New York, NY 10019

5.30-7pm

Friday, September 11, 2009

Impressions from New York, so far

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Continue reading "Impressions from New York, so far" »

Friday, September 04, 2009

The one about salade aux fines herbes and the veggie thief

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This was supposed to be a simple post about how to make salade aux fines herbes, the basic French salad with mixed herb dressing. 

It really is simple, just a basic vinaigrette with a mix of chopped parsley, chervil, chives, and tarragon - about equal amount except for a tiny bit less of the pungent tarragon.  

So I was just setting up a shot of the salad greens and herbs I just picked from the garden.

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Then Miss Ella got a little interested and came to investigate.

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Continue reading "The one about salade aux fines herbes and the veggie thief" »

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Thai cucumber salad (Yum Tang Gwa)

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I picked four fat cucumbers from my garden the other day.  This is my first time growing cucumbers - in fact my very first time growing a garden of my own.  I've never before tasted cucumbers this fresh from the plant.  They were crisp, sweet, and perhaps - no, definitely - the best cucumbers I've ever tasted.  I am sure these cucumbers are the best tasting in the same sense that my cat (or your dog, or your kid for that matter) is the cutest thing ever.  But hey, why burst our bubble?

Anyway, since these cucumbers were the best ever, I couldn't possibly just use any recipe for it.  I grew these babies with blood, sweat, and tears.  Ok, not  really, I put the starter plants Cynthia gave me into the grown and gave them water and they practically grew themselves.  Hmm, now where were we, oh, yes.. growing them with blood, sweat, and tears - or just dirt and water, rather - I wanted something special the celebrate them.  A little bit of tinkering in the kitchen produced this recipe, a salad of crisp cucumber slices.  It's not exactly Thai, but the inspiration certainly is from that general direction.  

The dressing here is a classic Thai blend of lime juice, fish sauce, chilli, and a pinch of sugar.  I don't want the lime juice to be so pronounced and to overpower the brightness of the cucumbers, so I use a little less and temper it with a bit of rice vinegar.  If your fish sauce is old and getting quite stinky, I suggest using a bit less and adding some salt instead as well.  You want the dressing to be light, bright, and delicious, not stinky, sharp, and muddy, so be careful.  A little bit of herb gives the salad a lovely complexity, so I suggest Tia To or Vietnamese Perilla if you can find it (regular Shiro leafs or just plain mint will do in a pinch), and also a bit of cilantro.  Finish the salad with a generous sprinkle of toasted coconut flakes and fried shallots, and there you have it.  The salad in the picture has some poached shrimp in it, since I had that for lunch and thought I needed a little protein.  You can skip it entirely, or use poached chicken torn into strips, or tofu, or nothing at all.

Oh, you want a recipe, that was it.  Ha. Ok, not really.  

Continue reading "Thai cucumber salad (Yum Tang Gwa)" »

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