Future Masterchef?

If my earlier post about Mexican Chocolate Cookies with Dulce de Leche didn't convince you to make a batch of your own, then I'll give you another reason. Today they helped propel me to the second round of auditions for the cooking competition/reality show, Masterchef. Well, these cookies and my winning personality. I can only offer the recipe for the cookies, though.
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I have an on-camera interview on Tuesday, so we'll see how it goes. Anyway, make these cookies so you can say you did before I

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went on TV and got big. Also because they're rich and delicious and melt in your mouth.

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Happy Australia Day!

A year before starting He Cooks, She Cooks, I studied for a semester in Sydney. It was an exciting time of traveling, making friends and, of course, eating.

I tried Aussie classics like pavlova, lamingtons, shrimp on the barbie, barramundi fish, and a burger topped with beetroot and a fried egg. But my Sydney food memories span many more cuisines. Besides

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the friendly people and jaw-dropping landscape, the best part about Sydney was the multiculturalism. I always said, if we can't decide where to eat, let's just spin a globe.

I'll never forget the Turkish kebabs and pide from take-away places, the Lebanese restaurant with bellydancers and the best falafel I've ever had, Hugo's gourmet pizza, Chinese noodles from an underground mall in Haymarket, the Spanish churros and hot chocolate at San Churro, King Street's endless supply of Thai restaurants, Portuguese chicken shops in Dulwich Hill, samosas at the Indian Holi Festival, modern French pastries at Adriano Zumbo, Taco Tuesdays at the Flying Fajita Sistas

And then there were the times I cooked. I'd pick up a local catch at the Sydney Fish Market and buy produce at the Paddy's Market, then cook something Asian-inspired at my friend Nicole's house. I'd make cookies, brownies and peanut-butter-chocolate Chex mix for my housemates. I shared my California background by making fajitas for my friends. And for our Semester-End Fiesta, I made 23 avocados' worth of guacamole.

I can't think about Australia without thinking about food. And so often, thinking about food makes me think of Australia. Sydney exposed me to heaps of new and wonderful things that I'll incorporate into my own cooking for the rest of my life. (Also, Aussie words and phrases like 'heaps')

If you're interested in more about Sydney, see my travel blog, Cross-World Puzzle. My posts tagged 'food' are here.

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Saffron Chicken Tajine and Eggplant-Tomato-Herb Salad

The theme of the night was ambiance.

My friend and fellow foodblogger Ally came over to help make a warm and hearty Moroccan meal for my family. As the vegetables roasted and the chicken simmered, we dimmed the dining room lights and adorned the table with candles and tiny tajine pots. We made a pot of hot mint tea.

During the meal, my family tried to remember Moroccan restaurants we had been to around the world.

What was the one with rose petals on the floor?

Oh yeah, it was downstairs and had candles on the wall?

Remember that one with all the pillows?

Bereber?

No.

That one has pillows too. The one on Robertson?

No.

That one had pillows.

404?

I think it was in New York.

Ok, so they all have pillows.

Homemade Moroccan bread — the recipe I used seems to have disappeared from the Internet

Then it clicked. Earlier in the week I read the Morocco chapter of New American Chef:

“The real beauty of Moroccan cuisine, however, is the hospitality that is as engulfing as the flavors and aromas.”

Several times the book mentioned the importance of comfort while eating. I know we must have had delicious and filling meals of couscous, merguez, tagines and other Moroccan delights, but what we all remembered most about those restaurants was the ambiance. The low tables, the heavy curtains, the rustic walls, the ceremonious pouring of tea, the rose petals, the pillows…

The meal Ally and I prepared was definitely tasty, and equally important, served with just the right ambiance.

North African meals previously: Tunisian Lamb Stew, Moroccan Roast Chicken and Algerian Carrot Salad
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Continue reading “Saffron Chicken Tajine and Eggplant-Tomato-Herb Salad”

The Perfect Cookie Dough

(This is my friend Alex's first post on He Cooks, She Cooks. Let him know how much you enjoyed it.)

A brief introduction: I’m a 21 year old college student at the University of Missouri. I’m an untrained (dangerous, I know) and often confused cook. I like just about all eatable things if they’re put together in the right way—which happens to be the tricky part and what I’m generally interested in finding out.

I love snacks. They’re the practical, any-time-of-day dessert. Moreover, they’re portable and easy to eat. If you can’t eat it out of your hand, it’s not a snack. I mean, desserts are great—it’s hard to beat warm pie after a filling meal—but they’re more ceremonial and require plate and fork. Cookies bring the best of both worlds into something sweet, portable and generally circular.

If I say there are a thousand different cookies, there’s probably a thousand and one. So, universal perfection is really something impossible to achieve—or claim. Really, it’s about individual food preference: if you like cherries, make a cookie with cherries, if you like peanut butter, find a great recipe for a peanut butter cookie. If you like it, you can probably find a way to put it into a cookie.

Here's what you need, the beer is optional…and for the chef, not the cookies. If you want beer cookies see here.

So, although I’ll never believe in an “ultimate” cookie, I did believe in finding an “ultimate” cookie dough to receive any number of delicious culinary delights (for me, nuts and chocolate). Really, I was trying to find the best chocolate chip cookie recipe; but what you decide to put in the dough doesn’t matter, it’s the dough itself I was concerned with. It seemed simple, but every recipe I found claiming to be the “World’s Greatest Chocolate Chip Cookie” with references to grandmothers or Eastern Europe fell flat. They were too thin, or too puffy—too dense or too light. I’ve probably made 15 different versions of the same cookie.


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What follows is the surprisingly simple, combined-from-many-cookies recipe for walnut-chocolate chip cookies. But I’d say throw in whatever you like, or whatever’s in your pantry.
Continue reading “The Perfect Cookie Dough”

Putting the He back in He Cooks, She Cooks

As the domain name implies, this blog started with two writers, a He and a She. Michael and I were friends who cooked together most nights during our senior year of college. After graduation, we've moved to opposite areas of the country (I was even in another hemisphere for a few months). So it has mostly been me posting lately since Michael has two jobs and doesn't cook very often.
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But I have several other guy friends who happen to be great cooks, too. In the next few months, you'll hear from some of them (and hopefully Michael as well). I expect you'll be surprised just how adept 20-something year-old guys can be in the kitchen. And I hope you enjoy the new balance of voices on the site.

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Ruth Reichl and the Legacy of Gourmet Magazine

Ruth Reichl has achieved first-name-only status with a few friends and me. Not because we personally know her, but we had read and adored her memoirs (my reviews here and here), seen some of her magazine work and even followed her tweets. The former LA Times and NY Times restaurant critic and sadly now-former Gourmet editor in chief is an icon to those who know and love food. I mean, the Reichl part is just unnecessary at this point.
So imagine how excited I am to tell you, I talked to Ruth!

Evan Kleiman, Ruth Reichl, Jonathan Gold and Laurie Ochoa.

I went up to her after she spoke as part of a panel including Jonathan Gold (first food critic to win a Pulitzer) and his wife Laurie Ochoa, another editor of Gourmet. KCRW’s Good Food host Evan Kleiman led the discussion about the magazine, which Conde Nast folded in November.

During the event, Ruth talked about the changes she, Jonathan and Laurie made to the publication. (Ruth had one condition for accepting the job: that she could bring Jonathan and Laurie, who she had worked with at the LA Times, on board too.)
“It (Gourmet) had become very polite and old fashioned,” Ruth said. “I thought of it as a publication for about a thousand very wealthy people to give to their travel agents and say these are the trips I want to take. There was no fun. There was no sense of the food revolution we had been through.” Continue reading “Ruth Reichl and the Legacy of Gourmet Magazine”