27 September 2006

Music and Mail

posted by gastrogirl @ 23:42 to section Food,general

I am currently enjoying a bit of a musical crush on Orhan Gencebay, after watching the movie Crossing the Bridge and subsequently listening to his contribution to the soundtrack. In the heat of my lust, I discovered some more of his stuff on some excellent Turkish music sites. Although much of his material isn’t quite as interesting to me as the acoustic track from the movie (which was just brilliant), it has not stopped my love-in just yet (and besides, who can resist this GAZE??)

Ahem. In other news, I am so glad that Mariya of The Food Whore Next-Door received her Blogging By Mail package from me, and that it arrived intact. Now I can safely add her to my links without arousing suspicion. ;) Do check out her blog, it’s very dessert-based (yum!). The cupcakes she makes are just stunning, and the other things are so creative. In fact, she just posted about a treat made with agar-agar, which is particularly exciting to me as I don’t do gelatine and am always on the lookout for how to use agar-agar in recipes.

As if in complicity with the arrival of the package to Mariya, the postal service delivered my Blogging By Mail package this morning, from Emily of Chocolate in Context in Australia. The contents are cute and I’m looking forward to trying them. Emily included some Outback Dukkah spice mix, which smells absolutely divine, a little jar of Tasmanian honey, a tiny packet of green tea, and a bar of artisanal chocolate in lovely wrapping. Also she included a newpaper section about food in Australia, and on the cover is a huge picture tempting the reader with recipes for The Perfect Scone, which is auspicious because scones are one of my favourite things to make! Can’t wait to try out the recipes. Thanks, Emily…


19 September 2006

A Piper Picked A Peck of Pita

posted by gastrogirl @ 12:42 to section Cooking

Last night while cleaning my place up a bit, I re-discovered a pennywhistle which I bought some time ago but never learned to play. Inspiration hit me and soon I was tooting out “What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor” and working on “The Trooper and the Maid”, thanks to some lovely online tutorials. I’m not quite ready to go busking with my friend gnarphlager, but it’s a fun way to irritate my neighbors gain some appreciation of the skills required to pipe both quickly and cleanly.

Apart from drunken sailors, I also found myself wondering what to do with a bunch of pita bread that was preparing to get stale. A local grocer sells large bags of bread for very cheap, but it can be a challenge to eat all of it before it goes bad. The quickest solution to this is to make pita chips, which are great for munching at parties, scooping up dips, or just snacking. They will last for at least a week or two if kept in an airtight container. The only ingredients required (other than the pita) are probably already in your pantry: olive oil and a homemade or store-bought spice mixture (I like zatar, but you can use whatever suits you).

pita chips

Making your own pita crisps couldn’t be simpler, but there are two ways to go about it. The first way is to separate the two layers of bread with a small knife and brush olive oil on each layer. Sprinkle the spice mixture on top of this, then press the layers back together. Cut the round in half and the halves into small triangles before placing on a baking sheet. Another way is to not bother separating the layers and just brush the tops of the pitas with oil, sprinkle with spices, and cut into triangles. Don’t be afraid to be quite generous with the spices and oil, since some of the spice will fall off when the crisps cool. Also, if your spice mixture doesn’t include salt, be sure to add a liberal dash of that as well! Bake the triangles at about 400 F for 5 minutes or until lightly browned and firm to the touch. Until you find the precise time that works for you and your oven, be careful to keep an eye on the first batch, as they can go from crisp to burnt very quickly. Also, keep in mind that they will become more crisp as they cool, so if in doubt, take them out!

13 September 2006


posted by gastrogirl @ 22:15 to section general

I dropped my camera the other day. On concrete. Not fun. So, although it’s not completely dead, it is behaving rather erratically and will only operate with much coaxing. So there may not be many posts (or posts with pictures) until I can get a new one. Then again, there’s also the idea of bribing friends with nice cameras to come over and take pictures in exchange for food. :)

In the meantime, here’s a peek at some of rlink’s last summer tomatoes…


4 September 2006

Planning Ahead (Because I’m Lazy)

posted by gastrogirl @ 23:08 to section Cooking

Suddenly the weather here has become rather chilly. Several weeks of 80°+ weather has turned into a week of rain with temperatures just over 60°. This is what I get for complaining about the heat! Actually, the brisk temperature is welcome after so many hot days, and is a nice reminder that autumn is on its way. Plus, it’s no longer torture to set the oven a-going, so I spent this morning baking something to eat for breakfast during the next week or so.

Since I am usually pretty busy, and also not much of a morning person, I tend to not be interested in breakfasts that require much effort, unless it’s a weekend or holiday. Muffins, bagels, or quick breads that can be made in advance and frozen are best, as I like things that be popped in the toaster oven and warmed up while the coffee is brewing. That way I can stumble around half-awake and not worry about causing any kitchen calamities.

Also, eating at home is more economical and also usually healthier. To be honest, I can’t stand most café muffins because they are too sweet for me to eat at breakfast. Streusel toppings, glaze, chocolate chips…these are fine for a snack, but first thing in the morning? My teeth ache just thinking about it. As a result, the muffins I made today are not heavily sweetened. Don’t be alarmed, though – a modest amount of sugar and the natural sugars in over-ripe bananas do keep them sweet, just not excessively so. Cardamom is the key spice used here, and I am pretty sure bananas and cardamom were separated at birth, or maybe long-lost lovers, since pairing them up produces such an amazing result. The flax seeds are optional, but are a nice way to sneak in some omega-3.

banana muffins

Banana Breakfast Muffins

1 cup all purpose-flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 egg
1 cup (3 medium) very ripe bananas
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cardamom seeds
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons golden flax seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease muffin tins or line with papers.
Sift the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Stir in flaxseed, if using. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas lightly with a fork, then mix them with the egg, melted butter, sugar, yogurt, vanilla, and cardamom. Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture in 2 or 3 batches and stir until just combined. Fold in pecans. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool completely.

2 September 2006

North African Tomato Salad

posted by gastrogirl @ 15:33 to section Cooking

The end of summer tomato crops are still going strong, but lately I’ve been feeling a bit too lazy to come up with clever ideas of what to do with them. There are still many tasty varieties that I can’t pass up at the farmer’s market or the gardens of friends, but that quickly leaves me with more tomato than I can handle. For example, when one finds oneself with a bag of 40 or so teeny ones that are in danger of decline, tomato salad become the dish of the day. I know – yet another tomato salad recipe, right? Don’t yawn, though…this one is special. Well, it’s the one I like best, anyway.
Continue reading “North African Tomato Salad”…