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February, 2010 | Manolo's Food Blog
Archive - February, 2010

Snipping parsley

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What does Christina Hendricks eat? Anything she likes, it seems.

On her divine frame those extra winter pounds find graceful placement.

While winter sinks its chill fangs deep into our bones, a fortunate few may take comfort in knowing they can sink their own teeth into a hearty meal without worrying too much about over-indulging.

In winter it’s more difficult to find fresh vegetables with exciting flavor. More than in the warm months, meat dominates the menu, perhaps more than it should. The menu’s balance shifts towards foods dense in calories and fats.

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It’s a great time for big red wines, a good digestive aid, but the craving for greens remains. Salads are a mainstay, and that’s fine. But what do you do when even the lettuce is boring?

Parsley has intense chlorophyll. It’s a natural cure for bad breath. Even the Henry’s noble hound Pepper loves it. (By the way, it cures bad breath in dogs as well as in people.)
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But when chopping parsley with a knife, sometimes the little leaves lose their appealing shape.

The solution is to use a simple pair of kitchen shears. Wash and dry the parsley well before snipping so the leaves will be crisp enough to cut.

Five stages of Valentine’s Day

Beware the Ides of February, the  Roman feast of Lupercalia subsumed by Christian doctrine into the festival of St. Valentine.

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On this day birds choose their mates, Cupid’s arrows strike the unsuspecting, and men offer gifts to demonstrate that attested bonds of love hold fast.

When calendar-driven holidays loom ahead, especially those holidays with obligatory gift-giving requirements, Mr. Henry faces the catastrophe in five stages:

Denial – What, here again already? Christmas cards haven’t been mailed yet. Let’s forget it.

Anger – Why must hackneyed traditions dominate our existence? Who came up with these poppycock red hearts and flowers motif?

Bargaining – Isn’t a gift given out of pure affection more valuable than a gift designed by a greeting card company? What about those pretty desert plates we bought last year? Don’t those still count?

Depression – No matter what the gift, it will fail to please the inamorata. Perhaps it’s best to buy from Bloomingdale’s. At least there you can take it back for an exchange. But Bloomingdale’s is such a shlep from the West Side, and such a crush of unwashed humanity, and doesn’t have a single thing she really needs or wants.

Acceptance – OK. Valentine’s Day is an easy one, after all. One can buy flowers, chocolates, or a nice veal chop. (No, scratch the chop. Make that underpants. Better yet, a chiffon cheesecake! It’s delicate, it’s delicious, and its name is a little risqué.)


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Michael Pollan is your Bubbeh

After explaining how certain plants have co-evolved through human cultivation (The Botany of Desire), after explaining why fakockteh factory frankenfoods are ruining our bodies and our planet (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), and after laying out an eater’s manifesto for the age (In Defense of Food), now Michael Pollan is laying down the law about exactly what to eat (Food Rules).

This we need?

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Taken as a whole, the book’s 64 prescriptions confirm something more: Michael Pollan is your grandmother. In pithy Talmudic aphorisms he’s trying to nudge the world into keeping a new kosher.

Rule #8 – Avoid food products that make health claims.

Rule #11 – Avoid foods you see advertised on television.

Rule #13 – Eat only foods that will eventually rot.

Rule #21 – It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language. (Think Big Mac, Cheetos, or   Pringles.)

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Oy, gevalt! Listen up. Americans are potchkeying around with their natural bounty, making a mishmash of their lives and everyone else’s, too. What’s happening to them shouldn’t happen to a dog. Enough already. Keep eating this meshuggener Western diet and you’re going to plotz!

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Better you should eat what grandma ate, says Michael. It can’t hurt.

Cauldron Bubble

Why are Kathy and Bernard the ideal dinner guests? Because they bring their own dinner.chervil1.jpg

Saturday night Bernard braised a rack of pork in a marvelous dozen little artichokes, a few golden beets, garlic, chicken stock, white wine and some fresh chervil (also known as “gourmet’s parsley”). The sweetness of pork and beets nicely balanced the artichoke’s natural bitterness.

He cooked it in a huge cast-iron oval Dutch oven resembling the iron-clad USS Monitor. Manufactured by the venerable French ironmongers Cousances, now owned by Le Creuset, the pot seemed to lend its own unique flavors to the stew.

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Infinitesimal remains from dinners of yore boil and bubble imparting dark magic to the cauldron’s charmed ingredients.macbeth.JPG

Fillet of a fenny snake
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog

How can a pot contribute to flavor? Because it is never washed with soap.

While Kathy, good American girl, dutifully scrubs kitchen pots with soap and pad, Bernard the Frenchman gives his iron pot one hot rinse and calls it quits until tomorrow.