Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Great hunks of meat

The Feedbag Makes Gyros at BZGrill from The Feedbag on Vimeo.

I've always wondered what a shawarma looks like before it's a shawarma. Now I know.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Nice Balls

Success! Taking a sick day, playing the metal channel, and using a recipe graciously provided by the Cease (thanks for the pity), I was finally able to perform dairy alchemy, although the results were far from perfect. My mozz was lacking in stretchiness, possibly resulting from not bringing the whey up to temperature (which kept the curds somewhat brittle), but for now, I'll take it. The flavor is most certainly mozzarella, and I am most certainly a believer in the third time being the charm. Good luck in your own personal cheese misadventures.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Abbreviated Pollan

For those of us (me included) who haven't read Michael Pollan's 8,000 word New York Times Magazine piece about re-thinking our food culture, Michael Ruhlman has heroically cut it down to it's essentials here. Some of my favorite proposals include:
  • Provide cities grants with which to build structures for year-round farmers markets.
  • Require federal institutions that prepare food (school lunches, prisons, military bases, etc.) to buy a minimum percentage of that food locally.
  • Food stamp debit cards should double in value when swiped at a framers’ market.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Eating China Food

The lovely and talented friend of To Be or Not To Beet, Emily Murphy, has decamped for a year to teach American culture to University students in Hong Kong. As a devoted eater, she's posting her witty musings and lovely photos of her food adventures on her travel blog. I'm jealous of her access to every Hong Kong movie-goers favorite treat, noodles in a bag, which sounds a hell of a lot better than stale popcorn with coconut oil "butter" topping, no?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

School of Cheese

Fidel Gastro, AKA the Big Queso, isn't the only one out there who wants in on the world of lactose-tinged delights. If you've got $500 burning a hole in your pocket (even after the great market plunge of 2008), check out Murray's Cheese Boot Camp. 3 days, lots of cheese and a chance to show off at your next caseophile cocktail party.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mozzarella, take two

The learning curve is steep. My hands are burned (seriously). I blew it once again. This time, I got the curds to set, but when I got to the heating and kneading process, my hands just couldn't take the heat, so I followed the advice of Ludacris (among others) and got out of the kitchen, leaving another blob that would not behave as promised. Lame.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cheese Us, Christ!

After reading Kingsolver, I went ahead and ordered Ricki Carroll's 30-minute mozzarella and ricotta kit, and it turns out that things are much more difficult than ol' Barb lets on when it comes to cheesemaking. Either that, or I'm just a shitty cheesemaker (insert "but I'm good at cutting the cheese" joke here). Here are a few spots where I think I went wrong, just in case your cheesemaking curiosity has led you down the same path:

1. Patience (something I lack after 6 beers at 9pm on a Friday) is requisite. The whey will separate eventually. I don't think I gave it enough time.

2. After you slice the curd and go into the reheat process, be careful with the stirring. I did more harm than good by doing so.

3. Unless you're one of those people that can walk on hot coals, get a pair of gloves for the pulling process. The curd-cum-cheese is literally too hot to handle.

My end result wound up looking more like cottage cheese. The curds just wouldn't come together, so I trashed the whole batch. But I am not disheartened. A future post will document my imminent success. Until then, I'll have to be content as a schmo.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Special magic video from teaching us that cutting a lemon lengthwise yields way more juice. Fascinating stuff.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Sorry I've neglected the blog. I'm on vacation for the next two weeks, but check in after August 18th for more exciting news from the Beet.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Pizza Party

At this risk of boring you with more of my pizza-making exploits, I need to give a shout out to my friend Erin over at NY Cookery. She's going around Brooklyn cooking people's favorite homemade dish with them, and then documenting via text and visuals. The result is a nice cross-section of the BK kitchen scene. She recently stopped by my pad so I could impart a little of the pizza-making wisdom I've accrued these past few months.

(Photo courtesy of Erin Patinkin)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Cooking Backwards

I'm predisposed to finding a recipe I want to cook, and then shopping for the ingredients. But sometimes you need to work backwards: I have carrots, ginger, tofu and peanut butter--what can I make with that? And now that my CSA has started for the season, I get a feeling I'll need some inspiration for new ways to use all the fruits and vegetables I'll be saddled with. This new site, Cookthink, is a nice resource. It's sort of like a Pandora for food--you enter what you feel like eating, it spits out some recipes that might do the trick.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Porcine Operations

I apologize to all five of my regular readers for my sporadic posting lately. I have a few good things coming up that will warrant posts. In the meantime, please enjoy my amigo Fidel Gastro's tales of pork butchering.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Totonno's on Film

My quest to make the perfect home pizza is progressing slowly. This weekend I made four pretty successful pies for a dinner party. I still haven't quite figured out how thin crust joints like Grimaldi's and Lombardi's are able to stretch the same amount of dough that I use so thinly without tearing it. I think it just comes with a ton of practice. This video on Grub Street is actually pretty helpful--it shows how Totonno's (my favorite NY pizza spot) makes a pie. It's short and musical, so watch.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Take that, Hippies!

As a cheesehead through and through, I've got no love for the California cheesemakers who are trying to dethrone Wisco as the king of the cheese states. So I'm glad to see that Saveur is showing some love to the men and women keeping the Dairy State tradition strong. I haven't tried any of the cheeses featured in the piece, but let me know if you have and what you thought.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Schmo-ish to Pro-ish

I fancy myself someone who knows his way around a backyard grill. If you've tasted my grilled sausages, or my headless pig cooked in a box (NSFV--not safe for vegetarians), you might concur. But I don't know jack-squat about real BBQ--that is the variety that takes 8 hours in a smoker, not 20 minutes on a grill. So Metromix sent me off to talk to some real BBQ pros--click here to find out what I learned and impress your aunt, sister, and baby mama this memorial day with your 'cue knowledge.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sunday Evening Seasonal Rhubarb Make Your Boyfriend Happy Pudding Cake

Making use of seasonal ingredients, I picked up some rhubarb at the Union Square Green Market this weekend. Gourmet's website had a whole bunch of recipes for incorporating the 'barb, and it's been years since I've had it. My lady, TS, is an excellent baker, so I implored her to whip up the Rhubarb Strawberry Pudding Cake.

The results were phenomenal--a shortcake-ish cake batter mixed into a sweet/tangy rhubarb and strawberry mixture. Rustic and delicious.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Eating on borrowed time

"When people really get sick, they have all the time in the world. All of a sudden they go to all these doctor’s appointments and they have to stand in line at a pharmacy to buy their medications. And they have to go for testing and they have to go for follow-up, and they have to spend all the hours being anxious about their disease, losing productive time doing that. And it’s like, just invest a little bit [by cooking for yourself] ahead of time."

Read the rest of the interview with my author Daphne Miller.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Links from friends

As previously discussed, I'm a yogurt fanatic. D.J. Egg tipped me to an ingenious invitation known as the yogurt spoon.

Look here to learn what you can do to help end harmful salmon farms in Canada. (Thanks to PH for the link).

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The 10,000 Year Old Diet

Browse Inside this book
Get this for your site

As some of you know, I do a little book editing here and there, and a book that I worked on and am really excited about just went on sale today. THE JUNGLE EFFECT by Daphne Miller, MD, argues that traditional, native diets are actually the healthiest way to eat. It makes sense that our bodies evolved along with specific foods, so in the end, natural foods and traditional preparations hold the secret to meeting our bodies' needs. So to learn more about Daphne's travels to the world's healthiest spots, including Iceland, Okinawa, Crete, rural Mexico and Africa, pick up a copy of this really important and fascinating book. Here's what Michael Pollan had to say about it, in case you need any more convincing:

“History shows that the human body is well adapted to an extraordinary range of different traditional diets. Alas, one of the very few diets to which we are NOT well adapted is the Western Diet most of us are eating today. In this bracingly hopeful and eminently practical book, Daphne Miller shows us how we can bring the wisdom of traditional diets to our own plates, in the interest of both our health and our pleasure. THE JUNGLE EFFECT is a fascinating, useful and important book.”

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pizza Schmo to Pizza Pro

This past weekend I underwent a self-imposed pizza boot camp, with the goal of learning all the tricks to making quality pies at home. Check out my exploits on Metromix right here.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Rice and Beans

The only chain restaurant that I eat at more than once a year is Chipotle. I hate to admit it, but the quality is consistent, and you can custom make your burrito, creating a relatively healthy option if you so desire. But thanks to an article in this month's Fast Company mag, I'm actually feeling retroactively less guilty about my fast food weakness. It turns out that Chipotle has a pretty good record when it comes to sustainable ingredients and humanely-raised livestock. I also like the CEO's relatively honest and refreshing outlook: if you charge a bit more for a good reason, people will pay it. Of course, there are plenty of arguments for why it's not ideal to "scale up" organic ideals in all cases, but I do think that practically speaking, it can only help to have big companies with deep pockets and a lot of influence fighting the good fight. In a perfect world fast food probably wouldn't exist, but it's a fact of life, so a more sustainable, ethical model can only help move things in the right direction.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Moby Dick Allusions and Coffee

This week's NY Mag features a clever and timely panel discussion on how to fix Starbucks. Danny Meyer, consummate restaurateur (and celeb look-alike of my homeboy DJ Egg's dad), has the most compelling ideas. This guy is just a genius when it comes to hospitality and restaurant management, and his dead-on analysis is exactly what Starbucks needs. Read all about it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Gardening of the Future

There seems to be a perfect storm coming in terms of food prices. Rapidly rising oil prices, depleted oceans, food scares galore (contaminated buffalo mozzarella and cantaloupe just this week), and global warming will all likely make food significantly more expensive very soon. Without some major foresight and a change in attitudes, it's likely that good food will become a rare treat, even for those of us in wealthy nations. Hopefully plans to make better use of local produce like this one will catch on, and people will start making better food choices--to eat only sustainable fish species and less meat in general. (Thanks to D. Sacks for this link)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Triple Threat--Update

Having written about, but never tried, the aforementioned La Quercia cured swine, I happened to stumble across an opportunity last week. A new spot, the Jake Walk, opened in my hood, and they happen to be one of the few places in the country that were able to secure one of the whole hogs from La Quercia. The deal is that a restaurant/purveyor buys a whole pig, and after the pig's slaughtered, the folks at LQ send various parts as they become available (fresh meats right away, cured meats as they become available). Right now the menu features La Quercia prosciutto, and it's damn good. The swine are fed on acorns, just like their questionably illicit Spanish cousins, the jamón ibérico de bellota. I have to say the La Quercia version ranked up there with the best prosciutto I've had, and I definitely want to get my hands on a chunk for home consumption sometime soon.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Triple Threat

The Midwest. Sustainable agriculture. Cured meats.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

For Cryin' Out Loud

The humble onion. As delicious to the taste buds as it is deadly to the tear ducts. A vegetable that has caused almost as many tears as Brett Favre's retirement announcement.

But for those of you who have soldiered through many a tearful onion dicing, the ultimate onion-chopping goggles are now available. It's really unclear what sets these apart from your standard ski or swimming goggles, which I can imagine would serve the same purpose, but I'm in the information dissemination business, not the question answerin' business.
And for those of you looking for more pedestrian ways to ease the pain, check out these tips from the Kitchn.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Make no Misteak about it

Beefsteak. A word that strikes fear, envy, and hunger into the hearts of men.
This Saturday I traveled with a group of adventure-minded carnivores into the wilds of Bergenfield, New Jersey. A quick Zipcar trip over the GW Bridge brought us to the world of sweatpants, white sneakers, and volatile EKGs.

Tipped to the longstanding North Jersey Beefsteak tradition by the newspaper of record, we vaguely new what to expect. All you can eat beef tenderloin, dipped in butter; all you can drink soda and beer; french fries; stacks of grease-soaked bread slices; good times.
The event starts with a perfunctory iceberg lettuce salad (skipped by me in favor of reserving valuable beef-tank space), and some pretty solid pickles and black olives. Ten minutes later the first batch of thick-cut fries hit the table, followed closely by our inaugural visit from the beef tray--an oversized baking sheet stuffed with thinly-sliced grilled tenderloin atop baguette slices. Thanks to our Beefsteak veteran tablemates, we knew better than to eat the bread--instead you pool your group's slices in the middle of the table as an archaeological remnant of your bovine-ingesting efforts.

The beef does not stop coming until the diners give their final dismissal (or the room's collective sodium level reach code red). At this point, the evening's entertainment began. A local comedy-hypnotist took the stage, along with my buddy Mark, a willing volunteer, to put on a wholesome family show. One would think that after providing the attendees with about 4,000 calories of beef and fries each, the food availability would cease for the hour-long show. But then one wouldn't be thinking like a true Jersey Beefsteak host. About twenty minutes into the show, plates of cheese puffs, Doritos, and pretzels arrived on paper plates, and, alas, we polished them all off.

I really can't recommend the Beefsteak enough. The admission was only $35 (could you even get all-you-can drink Bud for three hours in Manhattan for $35?), the crowd was a lot of fun, the beef was real tasty, and the money went to support the local volunteer firefighters. A patriotic and gluttonous success all around.

[Special thanks to Fidel Gastro for the photos]

Eat Your Spinach, kids

It's Popeye the Sailor First Baseman. This just in from Deejay Egg on the West Coast. Prince Fielder, prodigious home run swatter of the Milwaukee Brewers, has recently gone vegetarian. Tipping the scales at 260 pounds, PF must be putting away quite a few Boca Burgers to keep up his trademark paunch. Read more here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

CSA 101

I just sent in my first check for my local CSA a couple of weeks ago, and I'm already counting the days until the summer produce is ready. I'm lucky that there's a CSA pick-up location a couple of blocks from my house, and they happened to still be taking new members. But if you're looking for a local CSA and there isn't one, or they're all full, check out this Q&A on that gives the basic steps for starting your own.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Underground

Caseophiles, step right this way...Murray's Cheese now offers cave tours! I went on one Saturday.

There are four caves below ground, each with different aging processes and types of cheeses. It was pretty cool (Literally. I'm glad I had my scarf with me!). We learned all about mold and bacteria and the affinor's job as both artist and scientist. The aging process is fairly complex, though at times it is similar to what old people go through...think liver spots and sensitive skin masking a wise, complex interior.

Quite interesting, I'd recommend it. The cost is $10 for a 30-minute tour, and this includes a couple of samples.

On the way out, I purchased a bag of real Wisconsin cheese curds and had two of my fellow cave touring friends over for cheese and Belgian beer. This turned out to be the perfect way to spend the third Saturday of the month (which is when the tours take place).

Details at Murray's Cheese

Monday, February 11, 2008

Let the bacteria do the work

My yogotherm arrived on Friday, so I took it out for a test drive this weekend. The lady and I eat a lot of yogurt, and I generally don't care for all of the additives that most store brands contain. So I bought me some bacteria and some good Ronnybrook milk and got down to business.

The whole process is pretty simple--heat the milk, let it cool down a bit, then mix in bacteria and some dried milk powder and let it sit in the yogotherm for about 12 hours. My first try was a success, although a little runnier than I prefer, which is why I bought some Bulgarian bacteria too.

Overall, a successful mission, and the first of many bacterial triumphs to come.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Go, Go Kitchen Gadgets

I know a place where you can buy 18 different sizes of heart-shaped cookie cutters. Ga ga ga goo! But really, if you need a gift for the chef or baker in your life, and you find yourself in Midtown East (near the UN or the Japan Society), stop by Bridge Kitchenware. I discovered this family-owned, gadget-filled store not too long ago, and it’s worth checking out.

I’m definitely not alone in this thinking, as the place has been around for more than 50 years. The (sometimes dusty) shelves house an eclectic mix of earthenware, appliances, serving equipment, utensils...all sorts of good stuff.

Some of the basics you could probably find cheaper elsewhere, but if you’re looking to buy a unique (or slightly odd) tool for the kitchen, this might be the place. I picked up a nifty linzer tart cookie cutter set, as well as a tool to help cut onions (on first glance, I mistook it for a hair pick).

You’ll also find items like artichoke cookers, gelee molds, ravioli cutters, and percolator pots. They have a decent selection of pastry equipment too. It’s a fun place to browse, and every time I’ve been in there, the staff has been eager to answer questions (e.g. "What the flip is that for?").

If you search really hard, you might find a gem like the one I saw last week…a two-foot long pizza cutter that was in a jar marked Thanksgiving Special. You figure that one out!

Bridge Kitchenware

711 3rd Ave (at 45th St.)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

How Now, Down Cow?

There are some days when I am not proud to be at the top of the food chain. The Humane Society has released video footage of the treatment of sickly cows known as "downers." Rather than euthanizing these cows, ranchers resort to extreme measures to get them to stand in order to pass USDA inspection, which means they wind up in the food supply, which means these cows will exact their revenge on unsuspecting diners. I'm hopeful that this investigation will put these ranchers out to pasture. How could you be such a jerk to cows? They're responsible for 50% of the food groups. Seriously.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Once Bittman, twice shy...

Mark Bittman has a new blog over on the Times website. Bittman's recipes are great--they're vegetarian-heavy, simple, and use fresh ingredients. I recently made his Pernil recipe for a football party, and it went over like a sack of weed at a Willy Nelson show. I think he'll take this blog to good places.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Eat Yer Greens

Brussel sprouts. Broccoli. Green beans. Most kids don’t like them much. But what if we hide these healthy foods in chocolate chip cookies? Jeepers, the tots will never know…

Such is the claim behind two best-selling cookbooks (one by Missy Chase Lapine, the other by Jessica Seinfeld) that sneak vegetables into everyday dishes. Raymond Sokolov of the Wall Street Journal reviewed them in Saturday’s paper.

The books contain recipes like mac-n-cheese (the box variety) with white been puree and oatmeal raisin cookies with spinach puree. The premise here is that kids will get the nutrients and vitamins from these veggies without ever fussing. But Sokolov raises a fine question—down the road, how will kids learn to like or even recognize veggies if they are masquerading in other (often processed or sweet) foods?

The best line of his article: “These women treat vegetables the way Victorian mothers treated sex, with silence.” He urges instead for culinary transparency. Real food, introduced gradually.

I agree. It’s fine if kids don’t like spinach. Tastes change and mature. Think of the foods you loved as a five-year-old. Tomato slices on pumpernickel and a mid-afternoon espresso? Probably not, unless you were a highly sophisticated little darling.

Here’s the thing: a brownie with spinach is still a brownie. It’s not something you’d be serving to your children at every meal (I hope). So when kids do have sweets, I don’t think the addition of mashed cauliflower is necessary. Throw a few Flintstones vitamins into the cake batter instead (joking).

I love veggies. I just ate a sweet potato. And now I am going to have a cinnamon cupcake. Maybe I could’ve found a way to combine the two while baking, but I didn’t bother. There’s a better way!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Me and my Paddle

A while back I alerted my loyal readers to a new no-knead bread recipe that I ran across. Since then, I've gotten a hold of the book that the recipe came from, and I've been trying out some of the other variations on the basic recipe. I made the light whole wheat dough, and gave pita bread a try. My first two pitas were a little overcooked, but the second two came out well. My advice for anyone else trying the pita recipe is to keep a close eye on them during baking, and pull them as soon as they start browning even a little.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pollan Q&A

Michael Pollan has a new book out called IN DEFENSE OF FOOD. I'm still waiting for my copy, but from what I've heard, it's really quality stuff (which doesn't surprise me since his last book, THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA was bomb). Coincidentally, a friend of mine has been working diligently on the launch of, and she just posted a really interesting Q&A with Pollan.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Are You Pernil?

Yo. I spent New Year's in Puerto Rico--a country that gives major props to my favorite eatin' animal, the pig. I'll admit, I ate a nice chunk of this guy:

And no, I don't regret it.

Coincidentally, upon my return, Mark Bittman had posted an online video about cooking Pernil, a Puerto Rican pork shoulder specialty. Can't wait to try it out, but I'm gonna have to find someone other than my vegetarian, Jewish lady friend to help me polish it off. Any takers?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I'm Back

Happy New Year to everyone. While I was away, I read Judith Jones' memoir, The Tenth Muse.
Jones is a legendary Knopf editor who 'discovered' some of the most popular and influential cookbook writers of the 20th century--from Julia Child to Marcella Hazen to Madhur Jaffrey. Before Julia and Judith teamed up, the country was headed towards a future of TV dinners and jello salads. If it weren't for the food revolution that they started, any semblance of good home cooking that still exists in America would have likely completely disappeared.

And for a book editor who's very interested in good food, this book was a fascinating look at how hands-on and collaborative Jones' projects were. Before the much more corporate publishing environment of today, she was able to fly basically around the world to work with her authors, test recipes, and eat some of the best food available. Not a bad gig.

Check out the NPR Weekend Edition interview with Jones here.