Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Father's Kitchen: Ossobucco

This was literally the last of it.

My father made his amazing ossobucco for a friend's birthday recently. I visited the night before the party and watched the beautiful dish simmer while drinking Rum Barbancourt with him. The aroma would have pleased the gods, as ossobucco is a magical dish: veal shank braised in white wine, vegetables, and broth until it's falling off the bone- and then the bone gives up its marrow. That's what I wait for, spoon in hand.

He served it with risotto alla milanese, a saffron risotto, but I prefer it with polenta. It was so tasty that I almost forgot to take a photo of it- a good sign, right? I managed to take a shot of the last bits, when the risotto alla milanese was finished. I used that crusty bread to sop up the broth.

I asked him for his recipe, and he adapted it to serve two:
  • olive oil
  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 small sticks of celery, diced
  • 1 rosemary branch
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 4 pieces of veal shank or ossobuco
  • 1 tomato diced
  • 2 cups of beef broth
  • 1-2 cups of white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste

    1. Sauté the carrots, celery, onions, and garlic in olive oil over medium heat, then add the peppercorn, bay leaves, rosemary, and oregano.
    2. Brown the veal shanks in a separate, large pot in butter.
    3. Add the diced tomato to the veal shanks, fry it, then add beef broth and white wine as needed to keep it covered. Add the prepared vegetables.
    4. Cover the pot and cook it for three hours at a slow pace (simmer).
    5. Add salt to your taste, and serve it with risotto or with polenta.
I included a link to making risotto alla milanese, and you can buy polenta or make your own, which I recommend.

My father's version of ossobucco alla milanese has quite a few more vegetables than the "traditional" dish, and I asked him a couple questions about how he learned to make it. Read on, if you're interested:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Christien Meindertsma : on Pigs

I'm sure you've all heard you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Well, that's technically not true. What's more, you'll find the sow's bristles in some brands of bread and that sow's bones and connective tissue in your gelatin-which some breweries use as a filter for their beer.

Christien Meindertsma, a designer from the Netherlands, spent three years following pig 05049. She documented at least 185 products sourced from that one particular pig. I didn't know half of the ones she spoke of (wait until you get to the hemoglobin cigarette filters-priceless!). Bet you won't have heard of all of them, either.

Thanks, IHC.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cute Wine Gifts

As seen on

I found a darling gift to give my fellow red wine drinkers during my internet meandering. Wine Wipes, petite, citrus-flavored wipes housed in small compacts with a mirror inside the lid, were created by Borracha, LLC to wipe off that purple-hued film people get after a glass or two of their favorite Barbera d'Asti (or whatever they drink).

The people at Borracha state that Wine Wipes were specially developed with a sommelier so the citrus blossom flavor would not interfere with the wine. I read that the wipes will taste slightly salty because, well, salt and baking soda make up part of the ingredients list.

That won't deter me; I'll be ordering a pack shortly, and I'll get back to you about the flavor and efficacy. You can buy them from (as of today, they're selling three for $20), or whichever cutesy local boutique is offering them. Happy, sexy drinking!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Re:visiting Peru | Mika's Lomo Saltado

The goods.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm getting back to eating Peruvian food thanks to the lovely Miss Mika Sobieski. Mika is my new roommate and an amazing cook who spends her summers preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 150 teens at a Spanish immersion camp in Minnesota. Random, right? But through her contact with Argentinians, Peruvians, Columbians, and whatever else, she's brought mate, quinoa, all sorts of wine, and Peruvian food back into my life.

You all will love her because she made the best Peruvian dish in existence for us last night: lomo saltado. This could very well be the most popular dish in Peru, and with damn good reason. Marinated steak, home-made french fries, delicious rice, and red onions sautéed with tomatoes and cilantro (and a ton of spices) is a great combination. You won't be able to stop eating it if you make it right!

Mika made her version of lomo saltado for us, which included green bell pepper and jalapeños. You'll be seeing another variation of this classic, delicious dish in a few weeks! This makes enough for two, but it can be expanded for more.

The ingredients:

We're not big on censorship.

  • Beef sirloin or tenderloin for two (we used a 12 oz. strip steak)
  • Enough red wine to cover the meat
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1/2 tomato
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 1 tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
  • juice of one lime
  • 2 tbsp. cumin
  • rice
  • french fries

    1. Slice the steak into cubes, then marinate it with the soy sauce, red wine vinegar, a good red wine (we used a Rioja), garlic, black pepper, and salt for at least 20 minutes.
    2. Start making the rice. We made one cup of parboiled rice, because we love it. I used the beef fat to saute diced garlic, added a touch of olive oil, and continued with the rice preparation.
    3. Prepare the french fries. They're supposed to be made from scratch, but we were in a time crunch. We cheated and bought frozen Texas home fries, so at this point we put them in the oven to bake.
    4. Slice the red onion and green pepper into petals and dice half a tomato in large chunks; set aside.
    5. Once the 20 minutes are up, place the meat and marinade in a pot on medium heat.
    6. Sauté for five minutes, then add the lime juice, red onion, bell pepper, cumin, and fresh cilantro.
    7.Sauté for five more minutes, then add the diced tomato. Cover the pot and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the onions and green peppers are soft.
    8. Place rice on a plate, serve the meat and juices over the rice, add french fries, and devour.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Way We Should Read

His dorsal stream can only tolerate very low doses of activation.

Jonah Lehrer wrote about his wishes for the future of reading on last week. He introduced Stanislas Dehaene's work on the neural anatomy of reading (well, it's a first for me, anyway!) and its possible applications on e-reading, and I think it's pretty neat.

It turns out that the brain contains two pathways for making sense of words; the ventral route and the dorsal stream. The ventral route is activated by "routinized, familiar passages" of words, and it relies on the visual word form area (VWFA). The brain goes the ventral route the majority of the time (ha), but certain contexts activate the dorsal stream; for example, sentences with complex clauses, poor punctuation, and even those written illegibly. Basically, any sentences that require more conscious effort to perceive lead to an activation of the dorsal pathway, and supposedly, more comprehension and appreciation for meaning.

Lehrer is worried that the ease that better tech brings to reading e-books (through brighter screens) will have a negative effect on our reading comprehension, and even our willingness to read harder texts. This is true for me. I know I've responded to people with "too long/did not read"(TL/DNR) on many forums. I find a perverse joy in doing so, especially with inane posts (I suspect most of my readers have gotten to that point with this one!), but I recognize that I do it with quality posts at times as well.

I know many friends who do the same, and that's sort of sad. Lehrer's fear, that "before long, we’ll become so used to the mindless clarity of e-ink – to these screens that keep on getting better – that the technology will feedback onto the content, making us less willing to endure harder texts", is already a reality for many.

Anyway, I admit I wasn't familiar with the neural anatomy presented in his article, but it makes sense. My two cents: I would imagine that this dorsal activation also occurs when one reads text in a foreign language. I notice that I HAVE to pay more attention to the sentences I'm reading and the words I'm sounding out when they are new to me. I do feel my brain working when I translate a passage from Italian to English. The process is not automatic, not at all, and I find I appreciate the meaning of words much more when they're new.

Lehrer's solution is to have e-book readers offer a function to make reading a little more difficult, supposedly to activate the dorsal stream. I don't see that happening, but for all of us who care about keeping our brains engaged, dim those computers and bring out those old poetry anthologies once in a while (shudder). Couldn't hurt, right?

Re:visiting Peru | Causa Rellena

The finished product is on the left.

Causa is one of my favorite Peruvian comfort foods. My grandmother made it for us as children, and once in a while I made it with her. The tangy and lime-y flavor of the potatoes, the creamy tuna, the spice of the red onion and the peppers, and the buttery avocado just make a great combination. Despite the apparent randomness of ingredients, this dish looks beautiful and tastes delicious.

I prefer to come home to causa already made and ready to eat, of course, but since my grandmother is thousands of miles away, I make do with making it myself. The neat thing about this dish is that you can substitute any seafood for the tuna. I've had it with fresh shrimp and with octopus in Lima, Peru. This version is homey, with canned tuna and extra mayonnaise, and makes enough for six.

I used small bowls this time, but you can use a 9" springform pan.

  • 2 lb yellow potatoes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • aji verde, rocoto or any hot pepper sauce
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 can of tuna
  • 1 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1 sliced avocado
  • 1 sliced hard boiled egg
  • 1/4 cup of diced red onion
  • chopped parsley

    1.Boil potatoes in salted water, peel them while they're still warm, and pass them through a potato ricer. Don't have one? Mash 'em with a fork!
    2. Set the potatoes in a bowl and mix in the olive oil, hot pepper, lime juice, salt, and black pepper.
    3. Divide the potatoes into 3 equal portions.
    4. Line your oiled glass bowl or springform pan with one portion.
    5. Mix the tuna with 1/2 of the mayonnaise, and place it on top of the first layer of potatoes.
    6. Add the second layer of potatoes.
    7. Add the rest of the mayonnaise, then layer the avocado, the boiled egg, and the red onion over it.
    8. Add the last layer of mashed potatoes, cover the dish, and let it set for a half hour. Decorate with a little parsley, or with sliced avocado and boiled eggs, as I did.