Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Halloween at our house, 2010.

Wild strawberries in our garden, Oct. 30, 2010.
Here in Southern California, the seasons seem a bit confused.  We harvested the last of our tomato crop at the same time we put out pumpkins to welcome Trick-Or-Treaters.

This morning I took a tour of our backyard and discovered a few ripe Alpine strawberries tucked in a corner of the garden.  When I looked up into the trees, I realized that the lemon and avocado trees are just starting to bear fruit.  Meanwhile, the Christmas decorations hit Big Lots last week.

Growing up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, this was the time we'd begin to put our garden to bed for the winter.  In Southern California, there's no time to rest from the sometimes-weary, always-rewarding work of gardening.  

But I'm about to eat a Mortgage Lifter tomato sandwich... with fresh guacamole.  So I'm not complaining.

The fruit from our neighbor's avocado tree hanging over the fence into our yard, Oct. 30, 2010.
We'll be making lemonade for Halloween this year, 2010.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Award-Winning Sourdough Pancake Recipes

If you followed the story of The Amish Friendship Bread Pancake Challenge, you know that my friend Daniel and I spent our Sunday making various pancake-like batters based on the use of the starter for Amish Friendship Bread.  Thanks to our esteemed panel of judges, the company was great and it was a wonderful Sunday dinner, in spite of the fierce competition.

It all started when my friend Amy gave me the starter, also known as the "Mother", and I made the bread without much success.  I even went as far as to ask the question "Friend or Foe?" and ultimately declare this bread a "Foe".  When it came time to divide the dough, I decided to keep some to try again, but I didn't know who else I should give it to.  Amy wouldn't take it back.  Daniel said he thought this process sounded worse than a chain letter or zucchini, so of course I gave some to him.  In retaliation, he challenged me to find a good use for the stuff... and the Amish Friendship Bread Pancake Challenge was born.

I described the contest itself and how the judges responded to the various recipes in a previous post, but several days later Daniel wrote in with the following complaint.  I refuse to comment on this issue, as I believe the judges' decision is final.  But I will faithfully reprint Daniel's letter to me, as well as the recipes for each entry in the competition and let readers decide for themselves.   (If you do decide to try one of these recipes, please write to me and let us know what you think!)

Letter from Mr. Daniel Marlos, dated October 27, 2010, 6:16 AM
I do not want this to come off as sour grapes at the Palaczinta being disqualified for violating category standards, but I have found numerous internet references on food websites to the alternately spelled Palacsinta being Hungarian pancakes. Yes the batter is thinner, and it is true that a door knob would taste good with a dollop of sour cream, but disqualification? 
I have been asked to clarify the spelling of Palaczinta, and I cannot.  Each of my Eastern European grandparents came from a different Soviet block country, though the exodus occurred prior to or at the beginning of the Soviet regime. To further complicate matters, the Hungarian, Bulgarian, Slovak and Ukrainian foods that I grew up eating are all similar in many ways, though they may be distinguished by having different names with different spellings. Grandma Nanowsky called this Palaczinta, but she did not spell it, and she was Slovak, not Hungarian. She married my Ukrainian grandfather, so we also called this same meal Nalusnyky. 
I chose to make a sweet version that included some grated orange zest which came from a French recipe I found in Fanny Farmer's cookbook. Grandma Nanowsky would never have done that. She would have filled the Palaczinta with jelly or cottage cheese or sauerkraut, but the sour cream was a necessary garnish for all. I guess the bottom line is that my version of Palaczinta is suffering from a serious identity crisis, and being disqualified from a pancake contest would make them weep if they were capable of weeping. Thankfully, none survived the contest as they were eagerly consumed.

Palaczinta (made with Amish Friendship Bread Batter)
by Daniel Marlos
Daniel's Palaczinta made with Amish Friendship Bread Batter.

It is probably impossible to improve upon traditional Palaczinta, but faced with a pancake cook-off challenge contest, the difficult task of what to do with an increasing quantity of Amish Friendship Bread Batter multiplying in the kitchen, I attempted a variation on the traditional recipe.

  • 2/3 cup Amish Friendship Bread Batter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • Orange or Lemon Zest

Combine ingredients into a runny batter.  Add a pat of butter to an 8 inch cast iron skillet.  Put  1 ½ gravy ladles of batter into the hot skillet and swirl around until the pancake batter covers the entire bottom of the skillet.  Cook over medium heat until the top is cooked thoroughly.  Be careful not to burn the bottom.  Roll up with jelly and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Cornmeal Friendship Pancakes
by Daniel Marlos

  • 1 cup Amish Friendship Bread Batter
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ cup cornmeal
  • dash of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix buttermilk, egg and butter in a small bowl.  Add the Amish Friendship Bread Batter. 
Mix dry ingredients.  Add to the wet ingredients and leave lumps.
Ladle batter onto hot cast iron skillet greased with bacon grease or lard.
Serve with maple syrup and butter.
Amish Friendship Bread Pancakes, Two Ways... 

Amish Friendship Bread Sourdough Pancakes
by Susan Lutz

  • 1 cup Amish Friendship Bread starter on Day 10 after feeding it with 1 cup flour, 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup sugar.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk

Mix Amish Friendship Bread starter, 2 eggs, canola oil and milk in a bowl.
Combine salt, baking soda, and flour in a second bowl and add to wet ingredients.
Heat cast iron skillet to medium-low and add 1 tablespoon butter until melted.
Ladle batter into skillet to make pancakes until all batter is used.
Serve with maple syrup and butter.
Makes 6 to 8 large pancakes.

Susan's Amish Friendship Bread Buttermilk Waffles.
Amish Friendship Bread  Buttermilk Waffles
by Susan Lutz

  • 1 cup Amish Friendship Bread starter 

    on Day 10 after feeding it with 1 cup flour, 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup sugar.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
Mix Amish Friendship Bread starter, 2 eggs, canola oil and buttermilk in a bowl.
Combine salt, baking soda, and flour in a second bowl and add to wet ingredients.
Follow instructions for your waffle iron regarding heat settings and amount of batter used.
My heart-shaped waffle iron made approximately 6 waffles.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sunday Dinner Questionnaire: Lisa Anne Auerbach

In honor of Lisa's birthday today, we are publishing her answers to our Official Sunday Dinner Questionnaire.  You may know Lisa as an artist, bike enthusiast, or zine publisher.   Here at Eat Sunday Dinner, Lisa is known for her rapid assimilation into the Calabrian culture via marriage to Louis Marchesano.  Those who eat her cooking are especially grateful to Louis for introducing her to the delicious world of Italian cooking (although we are always equally grateful for her chocolate chip cookies, which owe no debt to the Calabrians.)  
Lisa at the Villa of Tiberius in Capri, 2010.

We are looking forward to further installments in ESD's first video tutorial "Calabrian Cured Olives", in which Lisa appears as the on-camera talent.

Happy Birthday, Lisa!


1.  What is your favorite food to eat?  Why?
I could survive on the holy triad of kale, chocolate, and potato chips.

 2.  What is your favorite food to cook?  How often and under what circumstances do you make it?
I really like making chocolate chip cookies, but I don't do it that often because I'll eat all the batter and it makes me feel kind of sick. I like cooking kale, and that's something I do a few times per week. I make it with potatoes, garlic and hot pepper. In the summer, I use the fresh peppers we grow outside. We usually buy the kale from the farmer's market since we eat several heads per week and I think  
we'd need acres of farmland to satisfy the household demand.

3.  Who or what is your greatest culinary influence?  Why is he/she/it an inspiration to you?
These days, my husband is my greatest culinary influence. He's incredibly picky, so if I want to eat with him, I have to cook things his way.

4.  What is your favorite kitchen utensil and why do you love it?
A sharp knife is a beautiful object and a wonderful tool. A knife that can just slice through a tomato skin without first stabbing in with the tip is a delightful thing. Plus, it can double as a weapon if needed.

5.  What did you eat for dinner this past weekend?
Last weekend I was in a van following a friend on a very long bike ride, so I didn't really have a proper meal. We mostly ate potato chips, chocolate, prepared tofu and kale from Whole Foods, almonds, and I think I had one tofurkey sandwich on Sunday with some coffee from that greek place in Baker.  When I got home on Monday, Louis hadn't been to the farmer's market, because the LA Triathlon blocked the streets and he couldn't get there, so I didn't really eat a proper dinner all week since we didn't have any vegetables. This morning, this was remedied, and, as I'm writing this, there are some heirloom beans from Louis' parents in Canada simmering in the crockpot along with some rosemary from the garden and a potato grown by a friend in the Catskills. I'll chop an onion and sautee the beans with some mustard greens, dandelion and chard that I got at the market this morning, once the beans are tender. I might choke some kale to go on the side, and I baked bread on Friday so there is fresh pane duro in the oven drying out. Plus I roasted some peppers which I'll toss with olive oil, salt, and oregano. I'm really looking forward to a superdelicious meal tonight.

6.  When you were growing up, did you eat Sunday dinner or another  meal the brought your friends and family together on a regular basis?  If so, what did you eat?
I remember going to my grandparents apartment in Chicago for Rosh Hashanah and eating brisket and chicken soup. My grandmother's secret ingredient for brisket was Lipton Onion Soup Mix. We all thought it was brilliant. She had a cookbook in her kitchen called "Bland But Grand." My grandmother also made kugel, mandel brodt, and served plates of pickles and black olives as appetizers. Louis likes to say that he saved me from my own heritage foods. He's of Italian descent, and thinks the traditional Jewish food is disgusting. I can't really argue with him, though I did enjoy the food at the time, and every  
year I like to have lox and bagel at least once, despite the fact that it violates my vegetarian diet.

7.  Do you have a garden?  If so, what do you grow in it?
We grow beans, hot peppers, and tomatoes during the summer. We just put in a crop of kale for the winter. We also grow herbs and lemons, limes, and oranges.

8.  What is your ultimate food fantasy?
I would really love it if animals didn't have to die in order for people to eat meat. I stopped eating meat a few years ago because of the environmental and labor issues surrounding its production. I  didn't consider myself much of an animal lover, but then some kittens were born in our front garden, right under the rosemary bush. Seeing them grow from tiny little creatures into incredible housecats taught me that animals come into the world with personalities that are as full and fundamental as those we appreciate in fellow humans. Now every time I see someone eating something that was once an animal, I think about eating my cats and it makes me feel a bit ill. I used to really like eating meat, but it's connection to living, breathing miracles of being is a turn off. So ultimate fantasy would be a complete disconnect between creatures and meat. I've heard about petri dish meat, but I think it's still a ways away.  Other than that, I'd like to stomp grapes with bare feet.

9.  If you could choose to have any person living or dead prepare a meal for you, who would it be?  What would you want to eat?
If Daniel was having his fantasy meal with Dr. Krupp, I'd invite myself along.  I wouldn't mind having an espresso with George Clooney either. He makes it look so good both in the Nescafe ads and the film, The American. If neither of those works out, I'd like to have a meal Tiberius, who was Roman emperor from 14-37AD. We visited his former home in Capri this summer, and I can hardly imagine what dinner there might have been like. Capri is full of gardens, and the food there was incredible. I wouldn't expect Tiberius himself to prepare the meal, but I'd like to eat with him and whomever else showed up for dinner.  I'd also like to have a meal with Aleister Crowley or Jesus Christ.

10.  Fill in the blank:  "The most important element of a good meal is _____________."  Food.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Heirloom Foods: Our First Crack at Cracking Olives

Today the girls and I decided to crack olives for Calabrian-style cured olives.  We learned how to crack them in Eat Sunday Dinner's first video tutorial, courtesy of Lisa and Louis.  I fear that Louis will be horrified by our rather aggressive technique, but we're pretty proud of ourselves.  I took a quick break from the olive cracking to post this video, but we've got a lot of olives left to crack so I'd better get back to it...

Heirloom Foods: Calabrian Olives Part 2

For those of you following our series of reports on the Calabrian Olive Curing Process, we're back with Part 2- Taking the Pits Out of the Olives.  Lisa and Louis have kindly supplied another video tutorial, which describes how to take the pits out of the olives.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Heirloom Foods: Calabrian Cured Olives- Part One

A bag of fresh olives from the farmer's market arrived at my house on Sunday.  Thanks, Lis and Louis!
Over the weekend, I received an amazing present from my friends Lisa and Louis... a grocery bag full of olives!  They bought two cases from their local farmer's market and gave me a hefty pile of them, along with instructions for curing them Calabrian-style.  I've never cured an olive in my life so I was a little afraid to attempt it on my own.  To my great delight, I woke up yesterday morning to find a video of STEP ONE of the process in my in-box.

Louis says the first thing you do is to smash the green (unripe) olives to loosen the pit, then you put them in a bowl of water for at least an hour or two or up to 24 hours.  Soaking in water will loosen the pit from the olive and you will be able to remove it much more easily.  Then you change the water every day for about a week, until the olives turn brown.  I know eventually you cover them in olive oil and stash them in the refrigerator.  But that's Part Two.  Or Three.

So here we go... Eat Sunday Dinner's first video-- Calabrian Olive Curing:  Part One.  (I really hope this works!)

Monday, October 25, 2010

And The Winner Is...

The judging panel for the pancake challenge.
The Great Amish Friendship Bread Pancake Challenge was held last night and no clear winner was chosen.  The most vocal member of the judging panel said she liked Daniel's cornmeal pancake fried in lard the best.  True to her mother, my daughter Violet declared my classic sourdough pancake the winner, although she refused to try the others.  In the end, it was a split-decision, but I think that most of us agreed that the best use for the Amish Friendship Bread "Mother"was in Daniel's version of Palaczinta, which is very much like a crepe.  Unfortunately, it was disqualified for two reasons.
Daniel's Palaczinta.

1.  Palaczinta is not technically a pancake.

2.  The judges believed that the use of jam and sour cream might have swayed the vote.

In the end, sour cream was declared the real winner.  I, as the overall loser, was forced to keep the "Mother".

The Scoring Breakdown

Overall Winner (Ultimately disqualified for violating category standards):  Daniel's Palaczinta

  • Most delicious
  • Best use of sour cream

Best Traditional Pancake:  Susan's Classic Sourdough Pancake
Daniel flips a buttermilk pancake.

  • Most heart-healthy
  • Good for vegetarians (no lard)
  • Easiest to prepare because it used mostly pantry ingredients (no additional buttermilk, lard, or bacon fat required)
  • Best for those who don't like the taste of sour dough
Amy's Choice:  Daniel's Buttermilk Pancakes
  • Very crispy edges due to frying in lard
  • Nice crunch thanks to the addition of corn meal
Kids' Favorite:  Susan's Heart-Shaped Waffles (also disqualified for not being a pancake)
  • Heart-shape is a fan-favorite
  • Very soft, fluffy interior

It was a great meal enjoyed with friends, and very much in the keeping with an old-time Sunday dinner.  My family has a long-standing tradition of serving breakfast food for Sunday dinner so it felt like home to me.  And nothing makes it feel more like home than bacon.  Amy brought crispy thick-sliced bacon and shared her secret for making perfectly cooked bacon in the oven.  (Layer the bacon on a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil and place in a cold oven.  Heat to 400 degrees and continue cooking until bacon is crispy.)
Jared's chicken, chorizo, and green chile hash.
Jared made an amazing chicken, chorizo and green chile hash using a recent LA Times recipe.  I hate to admit it, but I think the side dishes were my favorite.

And as an unexpected treat, Lisa arrived just in time to help with the judging and give us a giant brown bag full of green olives, ready for curing in the Calabrian style.

Over the next several weeks, we will provide recipes for winning pancake dishes, a video of the event, and a follow-up report on the traditional Calabrian olive-curing process, including recipe and video.  So stay tuned!

In the meantime, feel free to check out our "Heirloom Foods" Facebook Page for additional photos and comments on the event.  (You'll need to log on to facebook to see it.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

On the Road: WPA Murals in Ventura

When most people think of taking a romantic getaway, a day-trip to see WPA murals in the post office might not be at the top of their list.  Luckily for me, I married someone who not only thought it was a great idea, also suggested adding a visit to the local mission AND the history museum.  Can I pick 'em or what?

It's 70 miles to Ventura from our home.  Los Angeles was in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave when we hit the road, so seaside Ventura felt cool and comfortable at 85 degrees.  (It was a full thirty degrees cooler in Ventura that day, if you can believe it.)  Sadly, it was also a Sunday, and the post office was closed, but we had a great time peaking in the windows to check out the mural.  I had to photograph the mural in three sections.  The photos don't show a complete view, just the parts I could photograph through the vertical blinds in the post office windows.
Left section of the Gordon Grant WPA mural in the Ventura Post Office, 2010.

Painted by Gordon Grant between 1936 and 1937, the mural showcases the main agricultural products of Ventura in the 1930's.  I had never seen the mural in person before, but I talk about it each Fall in my History of Photography class.  We discuss the Work Progress Administration and the Federal Arts Project when we hit "Week 7- Documentary Photography".

My students are always amazed that there was a time in this country when the government cared about the arts, and that during the Depression the government even paid  photographers and artists to make art.
Center section of the Gordon Grant WPA mural in the Ventura Post Office.

Parks' "American Gothic, Washington, D.C."
It blows my students' minds when I tell them about the Farm Security Administration photography program of the 1930s.  I tell them about the brilliance of Roy Stryker at recruiting some of the country's best photographers to create government-sponsored documentary  images.  We talk about different forms and uses of documentary (and propaganda) as we look at the photographs of Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and many other FSA photographers.  Each term I teach this class I see the light of recognition in my students' eyes as they view this work for the first time.  I am alway amazed by how powerful it still feels to students, some of whom have only the faintest idea of what happened during the Depression.

Until I started teaching this class, I wasn't a huge fan of American Scene Painting, or Regionalist painting, as it is frequently called.  The earnestness of the work alternately bored and irritated me.  I grew up in a small town and I didn't see any reason to glorify rural living.  When I was young, I wanted out.  So I moved to Los Angeles and remained loyal to the Modernist camp, but seeing this work through my students' eyes has changed my mind.  It would be impossible not to appreciate Grant Wood's painting "American Gothic" after talking about the many challenges of life during the Depression and showing my students Gordon Parks' photograph "American Gothic, Washington, D.C."  The power of this photograph allowed me to connect with the original painting in a way that I hadn't believed possible.  Who was I to overlook the value of the New Deal projects or the artwork made in appreciation of rural America?  My grandmother's family home first got electricity thanks to the WPA's Rural Electrification Project.

I'm from rural America.  Maybe that was the problem.  But I've lived in Los Angeles for almost twenty years now and I have a new appreciation for life outside the big city.  I care about where my food comes from and about the people who grow and harvest it.  When I was growing up I didn't think much about the food I ate because I knew exactly who grew it -- my parents and grandparents.  Today the food production system in the US is much more complex, as is my relationship to it.  And today the Gordon Grant WPA murals speak to me in a way that wasn't possible twenty years ago when I packed everything I owned into the back of my pickup truck and headed West.
Gordon Grant's WPA mural in the Ventura Post Office, 2010.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sunday Dinner Questionnaire: Fridgeir Helgason

Fridgeir Helgason, Photographer and Executive Chef at Sequoa High Sierra Camp, Summer 2010.  
Fridgeir Helgason is a photographer, chef, and Viking, though not necessarily in that order.  When I spoke to him, he had just ended his second season as Executive Chef at Sequoia High Sierra Camp and was days away from a cross-country move back to New Orleans, after living in Los Angeles for a  number of years.  He'll be cooking at  Eiffel Society, the latest New Orleans nightspot to bring together food, music, art, and even urban farming.  (We're looking forward to Fridgeir's full report on the restaurant and we're hoping for a few photos to post on the site.)

Fridgeir's lunch at 10,334 ft. along the Western divide.
Fridgeir and I met the day after he came down from the mountain, which was in the midst of a giant hail and snowstorm.  He told me it was like the mountain was saying, "Go Home!"  And he did.  But from June through the beginning of October, Friedgeir cooked three meals a day for guests at the camp and hiked in between meals.  When I asked him what he cooked for breakfast, he said, "Everything.  I make a breakfast buffet with my own homemade granola, fresh fruit, apple-smoked bacon from Wisconsin, hash browns, and eggs any style, except poached.  I once worked at a place where I made too many poached eggs.  After that I took an oath that I would never poach an egg again, and since I'm a Viking I can't go back on my oath."  Fridgeir smiles when he says this, and although he can be very funny, Fridgeir is also true to his Viking heritage and says EXACTLY what he means.  

I met Fridgeir first as a photographer, then as a chef, and I eventually realized that what I'd been seeing all along was his Viking personality shining through both of these personas.  Fridgeir recently had an incredible solo exhibition at the Reykjavik Arts Festival which merged his love of photography and his Icelandic heritage.  He received a grant from the city of Reykjavik to photograph the neighborhood in which he grew up and his love of his home country is clearly apparent in this work.  It is also clear that Fridgeir sees  beauty in forgotten and abandoned places, a theme which can be found throughout his photographic work.  

Several years ago I went to an exhibition of Fridgeir's photographs at his mother's couture dress shop in Los Angeles.  During the opening Fridgeir and his mother entertained guests with stories about Iceland and served cups of Icelandic lamb stew that Fridgeir had made to celebrate the occasion.  Eating this rich, warm stew while viewing the work made the  remote Icelandic landscapes and abandoned buildings come alive.  The combination of great photography and delicious comfort food created a sense of place that allowed me to enter the work in a tangible way and it was irresistible.  
Fridger's photo in my kitchen, October 2010.

I am now the proud owner of Fridgeir's photograph of an abandoned herring factory in Djupavik, Iceland, where his mother once worked.  At the opening, Fridgeir's mother told me her story of working in the herring factory.  Like the photograph, her story was rich, complex, and unusual.  When I look at the photograph I think about what it must have been like to clean fish day after day in a remote Icelandic village and I am reminded that my life could be worse.  Or better.  The answer depends on the day.

The Official Sunday Dinner Questionnaire:  Fridgeir Helgason
1.  What is your favorite food to eat?  Why?
Soul food.  Because it's yummy and unpretentious.  It's also my favorite food to cook.

2.  What is your favorite food to cook?  How often and under what circumstances do you make it?
Every time I cook I make soul food.  It's all about the love, man.

3.  Who or what is your greatest culinary influence?  Why is he/she/ it an inspiration to you?
Annie Kernney, Gerard Maras, Greg Sonnier, and Wendy Jordan.  All chefs I've worked for.  Because they busted my balls.

4.  What is your favorite kitchen utensil and why do you love it?
Zester.  It's all about the zester.  I love to zest.  The zest [of citrus fruit] makes it sing when it comes into your mouth.  I have a cheap zester and then I chop stuff up.  (Editor's Note:  Fridgeir is not a fan of the microplaner.)  And a spoon.  You have to taste everything you make.

5.  What did you eat for dinner this past weekend?
I don't remember.  But I can tell you what I cooked.  The Sunday menu was carrot fennel soup, then for the appetizer I did my Icelandic fish cake, which is based on my grandmother's recipe.  It's THE quintisensial Icelandic peasant comfort food that every mother or grandmother or wife made for whoever was killing the fish.   You make it by poaching haddock in white wine, adding beshamel sauce, garlic and onion, and boiled potatoes. Then you cool it down, make it into cakes and dip it in an egg wash and coat the cakes in panko bread crumbs.  Panko is IT, everything else is shit.  Then saute them in canola oil and then pop them in the oven for 5 minute.  I served them with a creole sauce.  

For the main course I made andouille and pecan-stuffed pork chops with carmelized brussel sprouts, apple-smoked bacon, and sweet potatoes.  The sauce I invented for that is a root beer glaze.  (Ed. Note:  Fridgeir is obsessed with root beer and orders it by the case.  He says his root beer sauce was created accidentally.  One day he was standing at the stove drinking a root beer and decided to pour it in the pan when he was making a beurre blanc.  Fridgeir says, "It's the bomb.  Tastes like christmas.")  For dessert, we had something called Lemony Goodness.  It's a lemon custard thingy.  I don't do desserts.  Most chefs don't, actually.

6.  When you were growing up, did you eat Sunday dinner or another meal that brought your friends and family together on a regular basis?  If so, what you you eat? 
My grandmother, bless her heart... I love her but she's the worst cook on planet earth, would cook a leg of lamb every Sunday.  There were no fresh vegetables in Iceland when I was growing up except for rutabega and potatoes.  It being a sunday dinner, she would open up a can of green beans and carrots and another can of red cabbage.  She would cook the leg of lamb until it was the consisency of a shoe.  A couple of years ago, I roasted a leg of lamb for my grandmother and her sisters.  I cooked it a perfect medium and they thought I was trying to kill them with raw meat.

 7.  Do you have a garden?  If so, what do you grow in it?
No.  I live in downtown LA.  But I'm moving back to New Orleans and hoping to get a place with a garden.  (Ed. Note: Fridgeir is going to be working at Eiffel Society, a new restaurant where they grow most of their own vegetables and herbs.)

 8.  What is your ultimate food fantasy?
To work at French Laundry in Napa Valley, El Bulli (in Catalonia, Spain), Noma in Copenhagen.  Why eat there when you can work there?

9.  If you could choose to have any person living or dead prepare a  meal for you, who would it be?  What would you want to eat?
Paul Bocuse.  A twenty course classic french dinner with lots of butter and fois gras and truffle.

10.  Fill in the blank:  "The most important element of a good meal is ________."
Fridgeir's photo of the herring factory in Djupavik, Iceland where his mother once worked.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

It's ON! The Great Amish Friendship Bread Pancake Challenge

I've been making Amish Friendship Bread for the past two weeks, courtesy of my friend Amy, who gave me the original starter.  On Day 10 of the process, I divided the starter into four different ziplog bags as instructed, and made a batch of half-burnt friendship bread.  I wasn't sure what to do with the extra bags of starter, also called the "Mother", so I decided to have some fun with it.  Which of my friends would be most tortured to discover a ziplock bag of festering goo on their doorstep or office desk?  I ran through through the list of potential victims in my head.  I knew I'd found my target when I remembered the words of my friend Daniel Marlos, who'd likened Amish Friendship Bread to a chain letter.  Bingo.  

The next day, I snuck into Daniel's locked office.  Don't ask me how I got in.  All I can say is that I am not without hidden talents.  Then I hid behind an alarmed door and waited for Daniel to arrive.  I knew I'd succeeded when I heard the screams of terror coming from his office.  

I tore down the hall, and hid in another office, while trying to calm my heaving breath.  When I heard the clinking heel taps on his cowboy boots, I knew that Daniel was on his way for revenge.  When Daniel tracked me down, we had a good laugh and he told me he was going to try to pawn the bag off on his doctor during his afternoon visit. And I figured that was that.  (For a full report of what happened at the doctor's office, check out Daniel's comment at the end of my last blog report "Amish Friendship Bread: A Foe... and a Worthy Opponent".

I had underestimated Daniel..  And after receiving a phone call from Daniel, I realized that he was an even worthier opponent than the Amish Friendship Bread.  Daniel told me that he intended to make delicious sourdough pancakes from the Amish Friendship Bread starter and that he CHALLENGED me, author of Eat Sunday Dinner... Or Something Like It, to a sourdough pancake-making competition.  What could I say?   "Challenge accepted.  Let the games begin!"  

We've got a few more days before the starter is officially ready to be used.  I'm pretty sure that Daniel will not be following the instructions for making Amish Friendship Bread.  After all, the whole point is that we're NOT going to be making Amish Friendship Bread.  I like the idea of using the starter at it's regularly appointed intervals, but I need to mull the idea over before making my next move.  I will not make the mistake of posting my intentions here, where anyone, including my worthy opponent, might read them.  

But after the dust settles and the winner walks away with syrup dripping from her (or his) face, we will see who has won The Great Amish Friendship Bread Pancake Challenge.  Stay tuned.