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Below are the 12 most recent journal entries recorded in The Golden Table's LiveJournal:

Sunday, October 10th, 2010
10:10 am
Welcome to my food journal

This is a journal I will use to post my food related writings. It is likely to be a mixture of recipes, restaurant reviews, and general philosophical musings about food. I created it as a place I could point people to without showing them my more personal journal.

I will maintain this forward-dated entry as an introduction and table of contents.


03/25/02 -- Linguine with Fava alla Lionese (and other fava thoughts)

04/07/02 -- Grandfather's Salmon Salad

04/26/02 -- Linguine with Bread Crumbs and Black-Truffle Oil

07/08/02 -- Pasta with Wild Mushrooms in Tomato Cream

08/12/02 -- Simply Perfect Tomato Sandwich

09/30/02 -- Chicken with Nectarines and Lemon Basil


Coming Soon...

Other Writings

01/11/02 -- Musing on cities, and on the value of knowing where your food comes from

12/20/03 -- Jiminy crickets

05/04/08 -- I'm Back!

Current Mood: hungry
Sunday, May 4th, 2008
10:53 am
I'm Back! (and Isn't She Lovely...)

I have been feeling the urge to start this blog back up for a while now.  It is pretty funny, when I started it back in 2002 I set the date for the Table of Contents post to 2010 so it would forever be in the future. Now it is halfway through 2008!
(In fact, as I think about it, when I started this "blog" the word "blog" was not even in common use!)

Anyway, here goes.  I will start off with something simple.  Not even a recipe. 

Just to tell you that this morning I made my daughter her regular Sunday breakfast of a turkey and cheese omelet. Nothing fancy, just some "Italian style" deli turkey from Claro's with Tilamook sliced medium cheddar. But it came out so utterly perfectly that I felt I had to share a picture (which only barely does it justice).

Here it is:

The perfect omelet!

More to come, I promise!
Saturday, December 20th, 2003
12:23 am
Jiminy Crickets
Last night I invited a group of friends to join me for dinner at one of my recent favorite places.

Guelaguetza is a Oaxacan restaurant in the middle of L.A.'s Koreatown.

Koreatown is peppered with small enclaves of other ethnicities: oaxacans around 8th and Normandie, Guatemalans around the old Greek church at Pico and Normandie, Salvadorans a bit East of there, etc. For this reason, Koreatown offers perhaps the best grazing opportunities of any section of the city.

Guelaguetza is actually a small chain. This one, at 8th and Irolo, is the first, opened in the early 90's. They opened another on Palms in Culver City a few years later, and a third, much larger location on Olympic near Irolo a few years after that.

At some point I will do a proper review of the place. For now suffice it to say that they have absolutely stupendous mole sauces, and many other wonderful dishes. Their horchata, topped with bits of cantaloupe, chopped walnuts, and red cactus juice is head and shoulders above any other I have ever had, and if you want a sublime snack, just stop by for a cup of their rich cinnamon-laced hot chocolate with a lovely fresh pan dulce to dip in it.

But that is not tonight's topic.

Tonight's topic is...


I have an odd relationship with bugs... mostly they utterly freak me out.

As a child, a spider in my room could keep me up all night, and any insect much larger than an ant would likely induce me to sleep elsewhere.

But while I never thought I could stomach eating any sort of insect, at the same time I was well aware that they are rich source of protein and other goodness consumed broadly by large parts of our planet's population. And I have always cringed at other's squeamish expressions of distaste for the concept. And while I occasionally enjoyed some segments of the series, I always used to deride the show "Extreme Cuisine" on the TV Food Network because in virtually every episode there was an obligatory segment on some "shocking" use of insects as food.

And yet, as sophisticated as I might have wished to see myself, the first part of that paragraph held true: I could not possibly imagine myself eating bugs.

Until last night.

After we had put together our order (for far more food that the four of us could have hoped to finish), Jonathan noticed something on the menu he had to have... Chapulinas, seasoned, deep-fried grasshoppers.

Apparently he had spent a month in Oaxaca while in high school, and just had to have them.

It turns out he was remembering something else, a smaller bug that got sprinkled on other dishes "like bacon bits". (Perhaps they were a smaller bug, or perhaps they were this bug chopped up in to bacon-bit-sized morsels.)

What we got did not look like a plate of bacon bits. What we got looked (someone else's image) a lot more like a plate of... grasshoppers.

It took a couple of minutes of the plate sitting right in front of me goadingly, till I finally did what I never thought I could.

And how were they?

Well, unlike everything else at Guelaguetza, they were just ok, but nothing to write home about.
I think they actually rushed them out a bit. I suspect they are intended to be fried crispier, and the seasoning was all concentrated on the ones on one spot on the plate.

But I had them a few at a time throughout the meal, and they made a nice balance to the other textures and flavors. And having had them once, I think the door is now open to trying them elsewhere till I can really judge when they are good and properly prepared.

Do I have any more limits?

Yes. I still do not believe you will ever find me dipping into a bowl of worms, or any sort of live bug.

At least I hope not.

We all need boundaries.
Monday, September 30th, 2002
9:21 pm
Cooking for One
Since my separation this summer, I have found it depressingly difficult to motivate cooking for just myself. This was compounded by the disarray that took the place of my kitchen the first couple of months after I moved in. But even with the kitchen in functional form, I find it hard to make myself get out the pans and go to work.

This week I went to the farmer's market and let myself buy anything that looked interesting, in hopes that the thought of discarding so much lovely produce a week later would spur me into action.

It seems to have worked, at least once. We will see about the rest of the week. Here is what came out of the pan tonight. I have never done much experimenting in the way of fruit/meat combinations, I guess mostly because it just wasn't what I grew up on. But when I was at the market on Sunday the nectarines whispered to me.

Chicken with Nectarines and Lemon Basil

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1-2 large white nectarines
salt & fresh-ground black pepper
olive oil
handful of lemon basil
white wine

1) Trim and lightly pound chicken breasts. if they are thick, cut them in half into thinner cutlets.

2) Salt, pepper, and lightly flour (or dredge) the chicken.

3) Heat a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil in a hot pan until bubbling subsides. Add chicken breasts and sautee until lightly browned on one side. Turn and brown the other side.

4) Add 1/2 the basil leaves (about 1-2 Tbs) to the pan and sautee with the chicken turning and shaking often for 3 or 4 minutes.

5) Add nectarines to the pan and continue to sautee 3 or 4 minutes until fruit is softened and lightly browned. (Add a bit more butter if the pan is too dry.)

6) Transfer contents of pan to a warm platter and cover loosely.

7) Return pan to flame and deglaze with 1/2 cup of white wine, reducing by 1/2. If it gets too thick add some more wine.

8) Remove pan from heat and stir in 1/2 Tbs butter.

9) Serve chicken and fruit alongside rice with sauce over all.
Friday, September 13th, 2002
7:39 am
This is a test and will be deleted. do not comment
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a battlefield of that war.

this is the first cutCollapse )

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

This is the second cutCollapse )

We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom--symbolizing an end as well as a beginning--signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.

     The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe--the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.

     We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans--born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage--and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
Monday, August 12th, 2002
3:04 pm
Simple perfection, and the tastes of summer
It is already mid-August, but for whatever reason the really good tomatoes and corn are just now hitting the market. On the east coast this would be as expected, but here I usually see these two markers of summer earlier.

That said, summer is now here unquestionably.
Because what else, other than watermelon perhaps, is such a pure taste of the season.

I will post a few of my favorite summer recipes over the next few days, but let me start with one that in its insane simplicity is my favorite. It is hard to even call it a recipe, but I must, because each ingredient plays a role, and omiting any would take away from the endproduct.

This "recipe" is not my own. It appeared in Saveur (one of my three favorite food magazines/journals) a year or two ago. (Citation to be added later.)

Pure Perfection

4 slices good quality white bread
unsweetened butter
1 medium/large ripe juicy tomato
kosher salt
fresh coarse-ground pepper

1) Toast bread medium-light
2) Spread lightly with butter
3) Spread generously with mayonnaise
4) Layer each sandwhich with 1/2 the tomatoes, seasoning each layer
5) Roll up sleeves
6) Eat over sink

Yield: 2 sandwiches. (But you won't want to share.)


1) Bread. I say good quality, but this will work with almost any white bread. However, for those of you within 25 miles of Claremont, run, don't walk, to Full of Life and get their Pain de Mie. It is the very best white bread I have ever tasted. (Note however that some of its incredible goodness comes from the presence of a rather amazing quantity of butter in the dough, though you would not guess from the finished product.)

2) Good butter. I have become a big fan of Plugra from Keller. It has a percent or two higher butterfat content than normal supermarket butter, and it makes a big difference in flavor when spread on bread, and in rising when used in baking (since more fat means less water). What's more, Trader Joe's sells it for about the same price you pay for ordinary butter in the supermarket.

3) Hellmann's Mayonnaise (Known as Best Foods west of Rockies). No other will do. Period. End of discussion.

There are dishes for which homemade mayonnaise is best. This is not one of them. There are no dishes for which any commercial mayonnaise other than Hellmann's is best. Hey, it's my journal. I make the rules!

3) Kosher salt. See the article on salt in this month's Cook's Illustrated.

Current Mood: hungry
Monday, July 8th, 2002
3:46 pm
Meat of the earth
I have let this journal slide badly. So I am just going to pop in with a quick recipe I have been making a lot lately, in a few different variations.

It is one of a dozen or so fast pasta sauces I have developed that suit my tastes and dietary goals. (Though the recipe features some heavy cream, that adds just 50 [fat] calories per serving and make the sauce substantially more satisfying and filling. Aside from 25 [fat] calories per serving from the oil, the sauce is otherwise nearly calorie free.)

It is hearty and earthy and meaty, because it is mostly mushrooms. You can use almost any combination of mushrooms for it, though I would not go with more than half button mushrooms or other spongy bland mushroom, at least a third should be a good meaty, earthy mushroom like a shitake or portobello.

This sauce is a great use for mushrooms that have been left in the fridge and dried out (not slimy ones). I have used mushrooms that had reached potato-chip stage and it came out great.

You can also use actual dried wild mushrooms. Just reconstitute as directed and then use them, or add some broth when you add them and simmer covered for a while.

Pasta with Wild Mushrooms in Tomato Cream

2 tsp Olive Oil

1/8-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1-2 Tbs Trader Joe's Tomato Seasoning Splash
(basically ground dried (no oil) tomatoes with some seasonings)

3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2-1 tsp dry oregano

2-3 roma tomatoes coarsely chopped

1 lb. assorted wild mushrooms (I like 1/2 lb oyster, 1/4 lb crimini, 1/4 lb shitake)

1/2-1 cup red wine

1/2-1 cup chicken broth (or veg. broth, or water)

salt and pepper to taste

8 oz. dry pasta shapes, cooked al dente

1) Heat oil in non-stick chef's pan over medium high heat.

2) Add pepper flakes and sun-dried tomatoes and sautee briefly to release flavors and carmelize tomato bits slightly.

3) Add garlic and oregano and sautee briefly.

4) Raise heat to high and add chopped tomatoes. Sautee quickly till they begin to wilt and brown.

5) Add half of wine and cook down till almost evaporated.

6) Add mushrooms, and season with salt and pepper. Sautee till they begin to release fluid, then lower flame a bit and sautee till they are well-cooked but still juicy and firm.

6) Raise heat and add remaining wine. Cook stirring till wine is absorbed.

7) Add broth and cook down till almost absorbed.

8) Lower heat to medium-low and stir in cream. Heat to bubbling. The sauce will be a rich, dark brown.

9) Add pasta, raise heat to high and stir till well-coated and sizzling.

10) Plate and serve with fresh grated parmesan.

Serves 4.
approximately 300 calories, 8 grams of fat per serving.
Friday, April 26th, 2002
12:15 am
Speak to me not of truffles, lest I weep...

There isn't much you can put in a sentence after that word that adds to it.

As an oyster captures the quintessential taste of the sea, so the truffle is the flavor of the woods and the soil.

As with fava, I came to truffles quite late in life. But the pleasure they can bring is visceral, and infectious.

I remember a year or so ago when a middle-aged man eating alone sat down at the table next to us at Water Grill. Well-groomed, wearing a safari jacket, exuding an air of relaxed affluence, he was known to the staff. When they came back with his drink, he asked what the chef was doing with truffles that night. The waiter suggested them simply, over pasta, and he nodded his agreement. A few minutes later the waiter returned with a large plate of fettucine glistening with golden butter. He set it down and took from another waiter a small plate with a single large white truffle and a shaver and began to stroke truffle slices over the pasta. He paused and looked at the customer, who gestured for more. More shavings fell, and he paused again, and was again prompted for more. This repeated a few more times until there was a layer of shavings over the entire plate. My guess is that it was a $200 plate of fettucine. He enjoyed it immensely.

I finally had my first fresh truffles last summer at Ristorante Nello La Taverna in Siena. An astounding and simple plate of fillets of fresh anchovies, drizzled with local olive oil, with shavings of white truffle over. (I followed it with a plate of Gnochi in a Wild Boar ragu.)

While I have no problem ordering a hundred dollars worth of caviar for new year's eve, I have not had the courage to try cooking with fresh truffles yet. But last week at Trader Joe's I discovered they were now selling Truffle Oil (black or white). At $9 for a 8.5 oz. bottle, I could afford to have some fun and experiment a little, so I bought a bottle of the black-truffle oil.

It is lovely stuff. My first use: simply brushed on Full Of Life's lovely walnut bread. It was wonderful.

Tonight we had to cancel plans to go out for lack of a babysitter. I was left to come up with something simple and quick at the last minute, and our usual fall-back of pasta became the following:

Linguine con Pangrattato, Alio, E Olio Di Tartufo

5 oz Dried Linguine
1/3 cup homemade bread crumbs, medium fine
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 Tbs. Butter
1 Tbs. Black Truffle Oil
salt and pepper

1) Cook pasta al dente in a large pot of boiling water and drain in a collander. The sauce is assembled in just a couple of minutes and (other than the next step) should not be started until the pasta is ready, or almost so.

1) Toast bread crumbs in dry non-stick pan till dark golden brown. Remove to a dish and wipe the pan clean.

2) Saute garlic briefly in olive oil over medium heat.

3) Add butter and sautee as it melts.

4) Add black truffle oil, and heat through.

5) Add drained pasta to pan and toss and sautee till it is well and evenly coated.

6) Sprinkle with bread crumbs, tossing to distribute.

7) Season with salt and paper to taste

Current Mood: nostalgic
Sunday, April 7th, 2002
2:03 pm
A simple nostalgic lunch
About a month ago I was in Longs Drugs looking for a hot water bottle, when I came upon a sale rack filled with cans of alaskan blueback red salmon.

My mouth was immediately flooded with the taste of a simple dish I was raised on but had not eaten in ten to fifteen years. I bought a couple of cans (at $1.50 a piece) and stuck them in the pantry when I got home, and forgot about them. This morning, as I was thinking about what to do for lunch today as I would be in the office working on a paper, I remembered them.

And so I have just had a lovely and very nostalgic lunch of my grandfather's salmon salad (accompanied by a pita).

I know nothing about the origins of this salad, but have never seen it outside my family. I doubt my grandfather's parents brought it with them from eastern europe; I don't think they had a ready supply of canned (or fresh) salmon there. I suppose it could have originally been made with some local fish. But I suspect it was an invention or acquisition made in the new old country of Brooklyn.

In any case, I grew up with it. My mother ate it regularly, ususally accompanied by toasted Grossinger's rye bread. (This is a thinly sliced, fairly dry, commercial jewish rye sold in the NY area. There was ALWAYS a package or two in our refrigerator.)

I can't say for sure why I stopped making and eating it. I suspect it was three-fold: as I recall, the price of canned red salmon went through the roof in the early eighties; salmon, with its high fat content, seemed less healthy than tuna; and, finally, my wife is not as big a fan of vinegar as I am.

(I should say that the fat-content issue is a bit of a red herring (or is that a red salmon?). Since this salad is dressed only with vinegar, the final fat content is not that different from tuna dressed with mayonnaise.)

It is a lovely change from tuna, but only if you have a taste for vinegar. For me it is the stuff of life, and of family, and of my youth.

Gromp's Salmon Salad

1 7-ounce can alaskan RED salmon
(do not substitute the more readily
available pink)
1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
red wine vinegar to taste

1) Flake salmon in a bowl, removing any bones.

2) Mix in chopped onion, separating the pieces.

3) Sprinkle liberally with vinegar, and mix in. The salmon should be moist with it, and have a good vingar bite.

4) Serve in bowl accompanied by a reasonably dry bread product. (no squishy white bread!)
Monday, April 1st, 2002
3:10 pm
A test of skill
This is a test.

This is only a test.

Had this been a real entry you would have been instructed in how to appreciate it.

(I originally used this entry to test posting pictures. I intended to delete it, but unfortunately various people chose to use it as a place to introduce themselves and comment before I had a chance, so i just deleted the pointless picture.)
Monday, March 25th, 2002
1:40 am
It's spring and that means one thing... Fresh fava beans!
I think it is appropriate to open this new journal at the beginning of spring, and with one of my favorite ingredients, my favorite harbinger of spring, fresh fava beans, which arrived at the farmer's market this week right on schedule.

For those of you who are about to stop reading because you think (as I once did) that fava are the same as the similar-looking lima bean, let me assure you (as a dedicated reviler of the lima bean) that the similarity ends with appearance.

Fresh fava are tender and sweet and nearly unctuously moist. They pair beautifully with rich salty flavors.

Because of my fear of lima beans, and my misguided belief that they were similar, I only discovered fava beans about five years ago. I was inspired to try them by a brief mention on a cooking show on PBS that I did not normally watch, but happened on that day. I do not even recall the name of the host, or I would tell you here. But he spoke of his love of the bean, and showed a traditional italian use, which remains one of my favorites: simply place a couple of shelled, skinned, fresh fava on a thin slice of crusty baguette, drizzle with good olive oil, and top with a good sized shaving of parmesan cheese.

Tonight, however, we made our favorite fava dish, "Fava Alla Lionese" from La Cucina Italiana (Crescent Books, no author). While this is presented as a vegetable dish in the book, we have discovered it makes and absolutely stupendous pasta sauce.

The only downside of cooking with fresh fava is the prep work involved in shelling, blanching, and skinning them. But, to my mind, it is time exceptionally well spent. (Note, we have found that it is much easier to skin the beans after they have been blanched and shocked than before.)

(The recipe calls for thick-sliced bacon. Ideally it should be quite thick, around an 1/8th of an inch, or about an ounce per slice.)

Linguine with Fava alla Lionese

based on recipe from La Cucina Italiana,
Crescent Books, 1987

3 lbs fresh fava beans (in pods)
1/2 Tbs. butter
1/2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium clove garlic, crushed/chopped
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 oz thick sliced bacon, cut in matchsticks
1/4 - 1/2 cup canned chicken broth
dried thyme
fresh ground pepper
4-6 oz dry linguine, cooked al dente

1) Shell the fava. Blanch in boiling water for 3-5 minutes, depending on size, till tender. Drain and drop into a bowl of ice water to halt cooking. Pop fava from skins and discard the skins.

2) Heat oil and butter in non-stick pan. Sautee garlic briefly and add the onion and bacon. Sautee gently over medium-low flame for several minutes without browning, till onion is well softened and bacon is cooked.

3) Season with a generous pinch of thyme and a few grindings of pepper. (The bacon generally provides enough salt, however.)

4) Add 1/4 cup of broth and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for several minutes until beans are very tender and have absorbed almost all the broth. (Add more broth and repeat if beans are not tender enough.)

5) Toss pasta with beans in pan briefly and serve with grated parmesan.
Friday, January 11th, 2002
2:05 pm
Musing on cities, and on the value of knowing where your food comes from
We have been in San Francisco since Wednesday afternoon. We are here to visit friends whom we have not seen in over a year, and to go to MacWorld.

It has been fun. It is so good to get out of the suburbs and into the city.

I am pretty much always happier in cities. I feel the beat and the pulse and it quickens mine. I draw energy from brushing against people on the sidewalk. I get high from the sounds and the smells, even the smell of rot in the gutter.

I do think I was meant to live in the city, and that its distance is the source of a lot of my current unhappiness. My wife and I both grew up at the edges of cities (me NY, my wife Philadelphia). But I was always drawn inwards and she, I think, was pushed outwards. She enjoys visiting cities, but would not really want to live in one.

Anyway, today we rode the cable cars, which my daughter loved. She has always adored buses and subways and trolleys and such ever since her first ride on the Paris metro, when she was two and a half (which is exactly half a lifetime ago for her now).

Then we walked back through chinatown, browsed the shops, and bought some indescribably tasty and cheap foods. We made a lunch of a large assortment of bao and dumplings, roasted pork (the big stuff with crackling crisp skin, not char siu [the red stuff]) and a couple of yummy roasted quail, bought from 3 different shops for a total of... $9.45.

I love SF chinatown, in many ways even more so than NY chinatown. I love everything about it, but most of all I love the seafood shops, overflowing with iced and live fish, and eels, and live frogs and turtles.

Chinatowns are one of the few places in the states where you can still see food before it has been slaughtered. Live fish and even live birds are still common. And even after slaughter, the birds in the market still have their heads and feet, and whole pigs are not uncommon.

I am not a vegetarian. I have experimented with it in the past, and I understand the drive. I think it is noble. But it is not something I can make myself do all the way.

But I think that if you are going to eat meat, you have a responsibility to appreciate where it comes from. I do not mean that you must be prepared to slaughter on your own (though there are those who would say you should). But at least you should see in the steak where it came from on the cow -- be able to imagine it as a muscle of a living breathing animal -- and understand what that animal has given to you, and what you have taken from it.

I think this appreciation leads to a care as well in what you eat and how you cook. It is no accident, I think, that Americans turn up their noses at pretty much anything other than smooth, tender muscle meat, while Europeans and Asians eat every part of the animal. While there is an argument to be made that it is motivated by the historical need for thrift and economy, I believe it has also to do with an appreciation of the animal's sacrifice. If we must take a life, we must waste no part of it.

This is something that most Americans are now incapable of, I think. Because a plastic-wrapped boneless skinless slice of chicken breast is impossible to associate to the whole. And it is why I appreciate being able to shop in European markets and in Chinatowns in the US, where some of that connection is maintained. And it is why I try to expose my daughter to it as much as I can.

I was very glad to see her totally unphased by what she saw in the market. She was actually upset that we would not buy a frog to take home and cook. And she definitely understood that she was talking about bringing it home for food, not a pet.

Note, I do not claim these are new or even novel ideas. Tony Bourdain has much the same thoughts in the second chapter of A Cooks Tour, and others have said it as well. But I think they bare repeating.

Current Mood: calm
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