Sunday, November 29, 2009

Alexandria, Astoria!

Saturday afternoon, I am in New York, and I'm restless. I know that I should go somewhere walkable, so as to exercise those muscles that have atrophied in the Western wilderness I now inhabit. And yet, I can't think of any place in Manhattan where the interest provided by the shops will be worth the walk in the cold. I reflect on how I never really figured out how to enjoy New York when I lived here, I never found those spaces in the city where I could really enjoy being a flâneur, those streets so full of interest that it was worth the bother of a forty-minute subway ride to get there. Except for the unequivocal joys of Flushing and Curry Hill, that is. It is heresy to say it, but here it is: I never found New York all that.

As I sat thinking, my muscles atrophying even more, I thought about the fact that the M60 bus that takes me to LaGuardia airport passes right by Astoria, and that I always have the urge, but not the time, to stop and explore. I decided to go, figuring that even if nothing else there was interesting, I could indulge my melancholy with a shisha pipe and a cup of Turkish coffee. I met my boyfriend at the M60 stop, and off we went to Steinway Street.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Coupez les avocats en deux!

If you enjoyed my previous etymological musings here and here, you will love Matthew Driscoll's essays on the avocado, courgette, ginger, and turbot at Etymologiae cibariorum. If nothing else, you will learn how to make flavorful lawyer balls.

Cookbooks galore

When they said Dallas was great for shopping, I scoffed. I scorned. I'm not that kind of person, I thought, I'm, you know, deeper than that.

Of course, back then I didn't realise how great the shopping was, nor how much more fun it is to shop when you're driving around in a car. Nor did I quite understand that some of the shopping would involve.... books. I refer mainly to the spider's web that awaits me on the way home: Half Price Books. It has used books. It has remaindered books, often very good ones. (I just bought Nicholas Orme's Medieval Schools brand new for $20, for example.) It has a quirky little foreign language section, where I bought an Icelandic collection of medieval Chinese tales. And it has cookbooks. As if its low prices weren't enough, there is also a discount section where books cost either a buck or three. Moreover, being an educator will get you a discount card, and showing your public transit pass will get you an even bigger discount.

This is how I got each of these books for 85 cents plus tax:

I used to read my parents' copy of The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines: China, Greece, and Romewhen I was a teenager.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Going off road... and to the Gulf Coast

I realised yesterday that my sincere efforts to keep this a focused blog, a blog which would only deal with Romanian food and with nothing else, also made this an empty blog. A sad, abandoned, postless blog.

Which is a shame. Because I would love to write about other kinds of cooking experiments -- various curries, attempts at Middle Eastern dishes, my first Texas chili. And I would love to write about the strange and rich food culture of Dallas and Texas: the ethnic grocery stores, the plethora of food festivals, and the restaurants.

Salata de rosii - Tomato salad

Ridiculously simple, and yet this is one of my favourite dishes in the whole wide world. It is as good with breakfast (to accompany an omelette, for example) as it is with dinner. For some reason, I'm used to arranging it on a plate when I make it for breakfast, and more typically jumble it up in a medium-sized salad bowl when having it for other meals.

There's really nothing to it. Cut the tomato into wedges, arrange them around the plate, decorate with onion slices (yes, even for breakfast!), crumbled feta cheese (the fattier, the better), and olives. A drizzle of olive oil and a shake of salt and pepper, and you're done.

The hard part is really picking the tomatoes. Try to find some with taste. This kind of salad is not even worth making in winter with supermarket tomatoes.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Israeli Avocado Salad

Don't think I can't see you shaking your head. Israeli? I thought we were going to get Romanian recipes. I bet they don't even have avocados in Romania!

Well, fine, I'm cheating a little bit. But I have three very good reasons for doing so:
  • I grew up with this recipe, as made by my father, so it's in the Romanian file of my food memory cabinet. (Sorry -- I am coming up with all sorts of grotesque explanatory metaphors today!)
  • Because it's an appetizer spread, it fits well into a traditional Romanian first course of raw vegetables, salamis, and spreads.
  • A ridiculous proportion of the Romanian diaspora in North America made its way to these fair shores via Israel. So Israeli food is fair game, as far as I'm concerned, especially when the dish fits so smoothly into a Romanian meal.
The recipe itself is simple. Mash an avocado, mix in the juice of one lemon, salt and pepper to taste. Finely dice an onion -- preferably red, for reasons of colour and taste -- and add that too. Finally, dice a hard-boiled egg and mix it gently into the avocado salad.

Due to the added egg, this spread is doubly rich and creamy, but the onion keeps it from being too heavy or monotonous.