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Black Spanish radish

The problem with being a food blogger is that people assume you know what to do with all kinds of crazy ingredients. The upside is that you occasionally end up with crazy ingredients to figure out what to do with.

Such was the case this past weekend when we inherited a black Spanish radish from her CSA box, along with some kale and bok choy. “If anyone knows what to do with it,” she said, “you two would.” Why, of course we do.

OK, no we don’t, or didn’t. Admittedly, at first I was intimidated by this new creature, this charcoal-black, apostrophic, striated monster the size of both fists. But it’s just a radish, right?

As a matter of fact, yes, it sort of is. A big, black radish. That it’s also evidently Spanish is beside the point. But a quick Googling uncovered a trove of recipes for said radish, from Mariquita Farms, no doubt where this beast came from in the first place.

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Dear Safeway

Get bent. Today was meant to be the one-kajillionth time we've ordered groceries from you. We lovingly selected the items we needed, carefully checking the right options so we didn't get any surprise substitutions that make no sense to the…

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Stalking the wily tamarind paste

So yesterday I had it in my head — and once I have something in my head, I will move the heavens and earth to make it so — to make the always-satisfying Salad of Pain. I’ve made it a few times before, and it has established itself as a mainstay in our mid-week menus. I’ve found it to be quick, easy and tasty — all qualifiers of good weeknight fare.

Now, in the past, I’ve foregone the tamarind paste because I was too damned lazy to go out and get it. I’ve just subbed in some lime juice for tartness and astringency. This time, however, I decided to try to stick to the actual recipe, so I was hell bent for leather to find the stuff. A quick consultation with my friend Anita, who cooks a fair amount of Thai food, prompted me to make an excursion to the fabled 99 Ranch.


I’ve never been to 99 Ranch before. I expected a kaleidoscopic array of magnificently foreign and indecipherable product labels; unidentifiable smells both appetizing and otherwise; and the occasional glance askance at the lone guailo staring with unusual intensity at shelves full of obviously mundane product. I was not disappointed.

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The Butterfly Effect, part 1

I’ve been tagged by Ilva, she of the fabulous Lucullian Delights, on this intriguing meme. Ilva never fails to amaze me with her gorgeous photography and delicious recipes. Of course, I’m a staunch Italophile, and as she’s based in Pistoia, Tuscany, she’s got my undivided attention.

The meme, The Butterfly Effect, originated at Dan Perlman’s Salt Shaker, with the following proposition:

My thought in this meme is food items or events that changed your foodie life. Not some “oh, it’s the first time I didn’t put jelly on a peanut butter sandwich and used bananas instead” sort of change, unless you truly feel that affected you profoundly. That’s the key – it affected you profoundly, in some manner. A moment you can look back at and say “that was a defining moment”. The questions are simple, the answers might be harder – an item, person, event, or place that had that effect on you, and why. They don’t have to be big splashy things – sometimes it’s something very small and simple that changes the way we view the world – the famed “butterfly effect” (and I’m not talking about the Aston Kutcher movie). So, to those who want to participate, copy this and pass it on (and, if you’re so inclined, do a trackback to the originating post). Here are your categories:

1. An ingredient
2. A dish, a recipe
3. A meal (in a restaurant, a home, or elsewhere)
4. A cookbook or other written work
5. A food “personality” (chef, writer, etc.)
6. Another person in your life

Like Ilva, and Tana before her, I will take on this challenge in six separate posts. And to spread the love, I am tagging the following food bloggers to cogitate over the same things: Garrett at Vanilla Garlic, Martha at 2 Tasty Ladies (though she’s just left on vacation…), Sam at Becks & Posh (as fodder for her upcoming Blogathon), Adam at Bloghungry and Anni at Life Is a Banquet. I very much look forward to everyone’s postings! My first after the jump.

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Chilled melon soup with prosciutto and mint

MelonsoupWe had a dinner party last Thursday, and it’s taken me some time to pull together my notes and images to get the recipes up from it. But it was a fairly successful meal all around, and I wanted to document at least a couple of notable items.

For this event, I broke the cardinal rule of dinner parties: Every single dish I made I was making for the very first time. That said, I didn’t make anything all that complicated and so felt pretty confident that each dish would turn out at least well enough to serve to friends, if maybe not droolingly delicious. I am pretty sure I met at least that goal. Of course, it helps that I cheated on dessert and bought a bunch of pots de crème from Miette.

For the first course, I stole an idea from our recent exceptional meal at Acquerello: Chilled melon soup with prosciutto and mint. At Acquerello, they used galia melon, which was a brilliant green and extremely fragrant. I was unable to find galias, purtroppo, as they are my favorites, and had to resort to cantaloupe. But I think this would work well with any melon as long as it is very fresh, very ripe and very sweet and fragrant.

This is obviously a permutation on the classic Italian appetizer prosciutto e melone. But making it into a chilled soup lends a certain elegance, and the addition of mint adds a pleasant dimension of freshness and added complexity.

The recipe is simplicity itself, though it is slightly more than just pureeing melon. You have to bolster the melon with some supporting flavors lest it taste one-dimensional. A dash of sugar, a pinch of salt and some lime juice and Grand Marnier helped to build a more complex flavor and bouquet while still not getting in the way of the beautiful, ripe melon.

As per usual, the recipe follows after the jump, with the one caveat that measurements are extremely approximate. I did everything to taste, and so should you.

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