Tony is all about food. His ongoing food events and special projects have been featured in the press. To learn more, you can view his gallery, read his blog, or simply contact him directly.

Archive for July, 2008


loch ness zucchini monster

what on earth should i do with this much zucchini?

My friend Emily has a bountiful garden and every summer she is faced with the same dilemma: what to do with the abundance of fruits and veggies.  (I know, sad story, hm?) Well, this past weekend she gave me one of her zucchinis.  She gave me one not because she’s stingy – she gave me just one because this zucchini is the zucchini that dwarfs all zucchinis, vegetables and most other edible objects.  

Check it out:

I’m open to suggestions guys!  I figured there’s no better people to ask than fellow food bloggers. What would you do with it?!

foodies (not so) anonymous

Are you a food blog junkie? Do you stop your friends from eating your culinary creations before they’ve been thoroughly photographed? Do you wake up and check your feed for new posts from your fave food blogs?  Most importantly, have you made online foodie friends?

If you’ve answered yes to these questions, it must come at no surprise that you’re a foodie.

foodie haiku
foodie haiku

Last week, Diane and Todd from White on Rice Couple sent me the best graduation gift a foodie could ever ask for.  It was a care package filled with a bottle of epicurean extra virgin olive oil, a hand-crafted wooden serving platter, exquisite dark chocolates, Vietnamese goodies and pretty party napkins that made for excellent shock absorbers during delivery. The gift also came right after they inspired me to plant my own herb garden (READ: 1 basil and 1 rosemary plant).  This week, as you can tell, my basil plant is out of control.  I pluck and it just keeps growing!  So to show my thanks, I’ve decided to write a post using my homegrown basil and a couple of their gifts. 

mise en place
mise en place

When I opened the bottle of extra virgin olive oil they sent, I was immediately taken aback by its bold fragrance. It was like sticking my nose up close into a big bowl of Mediterranean olives. This kind of oil is certainly not meant to go anywhere near heat and is perfect for salads and dunking bread.  I opted for the latter choice, and went with a warm baguette from my local baker.

basil confetti
basil confetti

Infused oils is something my mom always makes for when guests are coming over. It’s extremely simple and tastes even better when made a day in advance. This recipe is for a spicy basil-infused olive oil and it is by far my favorite variation from my mom’s collection. 

good quality extra virgin olive oil
extra virgin olive oil

The oil is out-of-this-world! The minty subtleties from the basil play really well against the robust flavors of the unfiltered olive oil.

bread’s best friend
bread's best friend

After the oil has had about a day to rest (overnight if you’re too impatient), there’s probably not much that wouldn’t taste amazing with a little drizzle of this concoction.  Seriously, drizzle this over some grilled chicken, spread some inside your sandwiches, heck, go at it with a spoon? OK, maybe that’s a bit much, but that’s not to take away any of its awesomeness.

basil-infused olive oil
bread's best friend

Thanks again, D & T for the amazing gifts!  I’m looking forward to using the rest of the oil and the other treats you guys included.  The chocolates were gone by the second day, but that was to be expected.  You guys are the best!!

Basil-Infused Olive Oil

(yields approx. 300 ml)

Components

  • 250 ml extra virgin olive oil, high quality
  • lots of basil leaves
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Chiffonade your basil leaves (i.e. make basil confetti)
  2. In a pretty container, combine basil, red pepper flakes, garlic, salt & pepper and cover with the oil.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the oil to sit over night.
  4. Serve with bread (or anything, really) and enjoy.

Note:  You can store the oil in the refrigerator, but make sure to bring it back to room temperature before using again.  It is normal for the oil to congeal in the fridge.  

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Sexy Ice Cream

It’s summer.  It’s hot.  And I’m all out of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream (always a sad event). At the grocery store, I was tempted to simply pick up another one of their cartoonish pints and call it a day… but I didn’t. What type of foodie would I be if I never make my own ice cream from scratch?  For the longest time I didn’t own an ice cream maker, so I didn’t feel guilty in turning to my friends Ben and Jerry or their buddy Breyer for my ice cream cravings.  Now that my machine finally arrived in the mail, I decided to get in the kitchen and give it a whirl.

mise en place
mise en place

I came back from the Middle East with lots of goodies that would make any foodie swoon. One of my greatest treasures is a small bottle of pure rose water that I had bought at an Aleppan souq. Although ice cream isn’t a traditional Middle Eastern dessert, Arabs make plenty use of their rose water. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for ladies to dab some behind their ears and use it as a fragrant perfume. I, on the other hand, knew exactly what to do with my rose water!

cold yolks + hot cream
tempering

I aimed for an unadulterated rose flavor that wasn’t too overwhelming, but that left a note of intrigue with every bite. To achieve this, I made a very simple ice cream custard out of milk, cream, egg yolks and sugar and added a 1/4 tsp of rose water at the very end (before pouring the mix into the machine). Depending on the brand and intensity of your rose water you might choose to add a bit more or less.  Also note that the flavor will only intensify as the temperature drops, so make sure to add just shy of what your taste buds consider appropriate.

roses are red
rose ice cream

I don’t particularly like adding red food coloring to my ice cream because I feel that it gives it an unnatural look.  Sort of like that alien green color most brands use to distinguish their mint chocolate chip ice cream flavor. Hopefully this trend will change soon!

the perfect portions
rose ice cream

This ice cream hit home for me. Although the vehicle for the rose flavor was not traditional, the undertone of the rose water brought back memories of the delicate Middle Eastern sweets I enjoyed on my trip. With a bold flavor like rose, a small scoop is perfect for that post-meal indulgence or a refreshing snack. This is certainly not the type of ice cream you want pile into a massive bowl and eat your way through while watching a Law & Order marathon.

rose ice cream
rose ice cream

Granted, it does take some work time to crank out a homemade batch, but you will continue to reap the rewards for however long you can resist the ice cream sitting in the ice box. If you do make this flavor at home, consider sprinkling toasted pistachios or almonds on top. I tried it after having photographed these, and fell in love with the flavor combination.

Rose Ice Cream

(yields approx. 1 pint)

Components

  • 400 ml milk
  • 200 ml cream
  • 125 g sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • rose water, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring cream, milk and sugar to a boil.
  2. Whisk egg yolks and continue whisking while slowly incorporating the hot cream mixture.  This step is called tempering the yolks.
  3. Strain the mixture and add back to the saucepan.  Cook on medium heat until the mixture coats the back of the spoon.
  4. Cool the mixture in an ice bath, add the rose water and pour into your ice cream maker.
  5. Follow the instructions on your ice cream maker and store in the freezer until ready to eat.

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sexy ice cream
sexy ice cream

Inspiration, planted on my deck

As a blogger, I spend a substantial amount of time perusing other people’s blogs.  Being that I blog about food, I confess that I frequent the token food porn sites on occasion (read: tastespotting).  Who can resist?! Perfect scoops of ice cream,  decadent cakes, oh my!  This weekend, however, I did – I resisted.  I stepped away from my computer and celebrated the 4th of July with the rest of America.  

Italy planted on my deck
basil plant

Once the 4th was over, I decided to continue enjoying the rest of my patriotic weekend outdoors.  In fact, just the other day Peter, at Kalofagas, posted an entry that showcased his garden and the stunning array of herbs that he has at his disposal.  Not only him, but Todd and Diane (aka White on Rice Couple) also have an outrageous garden that I swear has more fruits and veggies than my local farmer’s market. Drawing inspiration from two of my favorite bloggers, I decided that this weekend I would start my very own garden. And without even signing on to my computer, I set out to buy my new plants.

the newest member of the family: upright rosemary
upright rosemary

OK, so I don’t have a full garden just yet, but I did start my mini-paradise with some sweet basil and upright rosemary.  I’m not sure if using chemical plant food is absolutely necessary (or actually good for the plants), but the staff member at Home Depot convinced me that the plants wouldn’t survive without it. So if anyone has any opinions about this stuff, I’d love to know. 

freshly plucked
basil leaves

The fragrance that was coming from the herbs was intoxicating.  Immediately after I finished my little project, my stomach was craving for some attention of its own.  Since this was the 4th of July weekend, I had extra hot dogs sitting in my fridge that were screaming my name.  And yes, I do eat hot dogs!  Or at least doctored-up hot dogs…

mise en place
mise en place

I gently plucked a few leaves off my new basil plant and went straight to the kitchen. I chopped up some onions, tomatoes, a clove of garlic and a spotty avocado I had laying on the counter. Everything came together with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil a tiny bit of lemon juice.  Some grated mozzarella completed the production and made for some killer dogs!

basil avocado relish on hot dogs
mise en place

Basil Avocado Relish

(yields approx. 1 1/2 cups)

Components

  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 4 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 hass avocado
  • 6-7 leaves of basil, rough chop
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Toss all the ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Enjoy all summer long over hot dogs, in sandwiches or even as a dip for chips.

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