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May, 2009 | Manolo's Food Blog
Archive - May, 2009

Relief from Casual Water

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On a golf course if water is temporary, that is, if the course designer did not place it there as a deliberate hazard, it is called casual. If you hit your ball into it, on your next shot you can get relief, that is, you may pick up your ball and drop it one club length away from the water.

In the whole of Florida, however, there is no relief from casual drinking water. Florida tap water is naturally sulfurous and unnaturally chlorinated. Pick your poison, vacationer.

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Water, water every where
And all the boards did shrink
Water, water every where
Nor any drop to drink

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Ya’ll know it’s an albatross of a problem.

Although bottled water may not taste sulfurous or chlorinated, it still harbors that plastic aroma, plastic that pollutes landfills. When it’s 87 degrees and 97% humidity outside, however, you’ve simply got to drink plenty of water.

Steer clear of Gatorade, whatever you do. Mr. Henry understands that down here Gatorade has been used in enhanced interrogation techniques – Gatorboarding. Very effective.

Iced tea remains the savior, the universal donor. Try to avoid “sweet tea,” too, for obvious reasons. (Sugar micedtea.jpegakes you thirstier.) After a few days in the Sunshine State you begin to crave tea with top notes of sulfur and chlorine.

Add a squeeze of lemon for a tart, minerally aftertaste, what connoisseurs of sauvignon blanc affectionately call “cat pee.”

Mr. Henry’s own recipe is to put several tea bags (English breakfast) in a big pitcher filled with water left to steep slowly in the refrigerator. Because the tea develops no bitterness, you need neither milk nor sugar.

The Garden of Eden

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Ever since Mr. Henry began working from home, lunch has become his special repast, a delightful and often solitary communion with leftovers and a laptop.

In winter he usually applies heat to whatever he finds resting in the refrigerator but from spring through autumn lunches are eaten cold. Indeed, many foods taste better cold or at room temperature. Italian antipasti served under olive oil aptly illustrate this principle.

Whether eating cauliflower, asparagus, fennel, potatoes, lentils, cucumbers, lettuce, olives or bread, there is one magical preparation that seems to transform each into a fulfilling experience – hummus.

A preparation of ground chick peas with tahini, hummus surely dates to prehistory. In the Middle East both chick peas and sesame were cultivated as early as 10,000 BC.

Did Eve prepare hummus for Adam and the boys? Alas, her recipes don’t survive.

Native to India, cucumbers are mentioned in the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh.

Wandering in the desert the Hebrews sent forth lamentations for chick peas and leeks so abundant back in Egypt.

A certain degree of imagination is required to believe that the Garden of Eden was once located in Iraq, yet surely pockets of beauty remain. Have you ever tasted dates from Basra? The salty, sandy soil of southern Iraq yields the most flavorful date.

When you pour a dollop of olive oil on feta cheese does your imagination not stray back to classical Athens, an empire built on the exportation of olive oil?

Mr. Henry eats the food of the ancients. Moreover, when he cooks he usually reaches for an iron skillet probably indistinct from ones forged by the Hittites late in the second millennium BC. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Mother’s Day Menu

For Mother’s Day brunch Mr. Henry is serving potato latkes with smoked salmon, avocado, tomato, and crème fraîche. (Since guests of all ages will be there, he will not make his more fanciful latkes of Jerusalem artichoke, parsnips and carrot.)

Potato latke

6-8 Yukon gold or russet (Idaho) potatoes, coarsely grated
1 medium white onion, diced
1 or 2 eggs mildly beaten
½ cup bread crumbs
carrots, grated (optional)
splash of half and half (optional)
grated nutmeg (optional)
squeeze of lemon (optional)
salt & pepper

First dice your onion and squeeze a bit of lemon on it, if desired. Add salt. In the few minutes while you grate the potatoes the lemon’s acids will quickly macerate the onion and soften its bite.

Some recipes call for squeezing water from grated potatoes either with a dishtowel or through a strainer. Some even demand you save the starchy white residue at the bottom of the bowl and rejoin it to the mixture. Normally Mr. Henry soaks them in ice water and then rolls them in a dishrag. It’s quick and it works.

Whichever path you decide to take, do it fast. Daylight is burning. People who skipped breakfast to save room for brunch are getting cranky. People who started pouring champagne before the food was served are getting loopy and loud. If the chef wants peace and harmony for mother, he had better get down to business.

Many recipes call for making cute little individual latkes. Instead Mr. Henry makes two big flat crispy ones. Turning a big piece, however, takes some clever sleight of hand. Scrape it free with your spatula, put a plate or another pan on top, turn and hope for the best. carlo-mollino.jpg

Mix everything together. In an iron skillet with a little vegetable oil fry a thin layer (half your mixture) as brown as you can get it before burning. Place the first latke in a warm oven while you fry the second.

Then build a sandwich with smoked salmon (Scottish, the smokiest), avocado, tomato, and crème fraîche (or sour cream). Slice a pie-shaped portion for each person. An arugula salad on the side, some fresh fruit for dessert, and you’re good for another year of mother love.

And here’s a thought for the day: After brunch, when mother is feeling the champagne and everyone else has gone home, dress her in Roman sandals and snap her photograph seated in a Carlo Mollino chair.