Wednesday, July 07, 2004

food part 2

Once you get used to eating at least approximately seasonally, summer presents an embarassment of riches. I would have no problem eating ten pouds of peaches every week of the season, for example, but one must also take advantage of the end of berry season, and the beginning of the melon's. Suffice it to say I eat a lot of fruit these days. After many years, I have reached an uneasy equilibrium in the produce department, but yesterday I encountered the same dilemma at the fish counter.

At the risk of exposing myself to envy and/or mockery, the following story requires me to reveal that I eat wild local king salmon once a week in season. As I was buying my weekly filet yesterday, I noticed a rare treat at the other end of the counter: fresh whole anchovies. After a bruising internal debate, I made the sensible decision and bought both. Gutting a half-pound of anchovies affords ample time for reflection. Knowing that I was going to turn them into boquerones for later use, I contemplated the growing pile of "refuse" I was going to have to throw away.

Luckily, Colman Andrews's Catalan Cuisine had just the idea I needed: fried anchovy spines. The recipe begins: "I realize this recipe sounds like a joke, but..." [Actually it begins with a bizarrely irrelevant comparison of Catalan food and 'eighties French haute cuisine, but we will give him the benefit of the doubt on that]. The result was a surprisingly bland crispy snack, more like a chip than a skeleton, and rather tasty with a large amount of salt. Naturally, they would also be excellent dipped in allioli.

"Eating down the food chain" is often promoted as a way to more efficiently consume our planet's bountiful biomass. Less protein is wasted when we consume anchovies directly instead of through larger intermediaries. This is not really a solution to anything, however, because human competition for food just substitutes slow starvation for direct decimation of the predatory species that we would also like to eat. There is no easy solution to the problem, but it is certainly not a bad idea to use the animals we do eat as completely as possible. Peasants, of course, have never had to be persuaded of this logic by the Sierra Club, and neither should you. Rolled spleen may forever be a tough sell, but anchovy spines are easy, at least for the kind of people likely to clean the fish themselves:

fried anchovy spines (from memory)
soak the spines in milk for an hour, dredge lightly in flour, fry gently (~300 degrees F) in olive oil until golden. Serve immediately with generous salt, or allioli.
[The milk seems superfluous to me, and I skipped it, but it would be a good idea if you get your spines from salted whole anchovies].

Turning back to the papers, Russ spoils the effect of his first article by going on to provide recipes for stone fruit. The only legitimate recipe for a perfect peach is this: 1. walk over to the sink; 2. eat the peach; 3. repeat as necessary. To his credit, his interventions are minimal though, and he does have some good tips for picking out fruit. Meanwhile, David Karp takes on raspberries.

Corie Brown on Food Network's race to the bottom. The false dichotomy:

"Americans accumulate rather than inherit their culinary habits," [Laura Shapiro] says, noting that television is a critical part of that process. "It's the true future of viable home cooking." Gastronomica's Goldstein disagrees. Food television isn't cooking, "it's voyeurism. You watch it but you don't do it," she says.
It is, of course, both, and I don't see what is to be gained by bemoaning creeping voyeurism. That Sandra Lee bullshit is another matter. Conversely, Florence Fabricant confronts the business end of the restaurant business, which is, simply put, a shitload of money.

Battle of the expense accounts: David Shaw goes to London, Johnny Apple to Puglia, which the Times insists for some reason on calling Apulia -- the equivalent of referring to Lombardy as Gallia Cisalpina. But Marlena Spieler wins by visiting both England and Turkey. If Bittman's recipe for raita last week wasn't enough for you, try Spieler's for cacik.

The other recipe you should try is Florence Fabricant's pissaladière, which is connected to the Times's continuing attepts to badger you into drinking rosé. If you're not on the bandwagon yet, I don't know that you can be helped [note: my half-dead palate says the Saintsbury they recommend is not so hot]. Also, grind your own meat in the food processor. And buy Robb Walsh's new Tex-Mex book.

One more thing: where's Amanda? Everyone's favorite food writer has vanished from the pages of America's most beloved newspaper. Perhaps she is holed up to work on Bathing Mr. Latte?

This week the interweb brings us; Jamie Oliver's shocking tarragon salad; Whole Foods in Fast Company [both via Sauté Wed.]; Gastropoda, the fruit of Regina Schrambling's free-lancing free time, is reliably snarky, in a good way; e.g.,: "The surprise is not that Judson Grill is closing. It�s that anyone would think the world needs more Bobby Flay."; Peter Hertzmann enters the matrix; Flexipan: parisian tupperware party; and, if you need Robert Wolke to tell you that charcoal is better than gas, you need to get those crack rocks off the grill and try cooking meat instead.


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