Where am I?


December 14, 2015 at 12:34 PM | categories: food, recipes | View Comments

Toum is traditional with middle eastern food, especially chicken. But it's also great on pizza or pasta, or as a dip for vegetables. Or use it to flavor rice dishes. Heck, try it with cardboard!

I first had toum (ثوم) at zankou chicken, where they call it "garlic sauce". Not knowing the name made it tricky to find a recipe, but I persevered. Here's what I've settled on:

  • 3 heads of garlic, peeled (about 36-42 cloves)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2-3 Tbl lemon juice
  • 9 oz vegetable oil (soybean works well)

Peel the garlic and combine it with the salt and lemon juice in a blender. Work it into a fine paste. Add the oil a little at a time, building up a white, creamy emulsion. Use a little less lemon juice for a thicker texture, like whipped butter. Use more lemon juice if, like John Cleese, you like it runny.

Refrigerate for an hour or two before using, so the lemon juice can work on the garlic. Makes about a pint of garlicky goodness. Keep it refrigerated in a sealed container. Keeping toum in a condiment squeeze tube can be a lot of fun: apply garlic anywhere, anytime, with pinpoint precision.

You may be tempted to try olive oil instead of soybean. Don't bother: it doesn't emulsify very well. I think this is because of the chemistry of the fatty acids involved, but I don't even play a chemist on TV. Avoid canola oil too, because it makes the toum taste funny.

Emulsions have a reputation for being finicky, but this one seems pretty reliable for me. Just watch out for hot days or overworking the blender. Heat breaks down emulsions pretty easily. So does freezing. If you cook with toum, the heat will break down the emulsion. Sure, it'll break down into garlic and oil, and you might say you haven't lost anything. But why did you bother getting out the blender and making toum, if all you wanted was garlic and oil?

Some toum recipes call for extra filler: potato or breadcrumbs, etc. Feel free to try that. You can also try mixing in herbs or spices. Or just sprinkle whatever you feel like on top of your plateful of yum.

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Nam Phrik Pao

August 01, 2010 at 05:20 PM | categories: food, recipes | View Comments

This Thai roasted chile-tamarind curry paste is used in dishes such as tom yum and cashew chicken. Mixed with equal parts lime juice or lemon juice, it makes an excellent salad dressing. However, this recipe involves lots of hot oil. Be very careful when making this curry paste. This is your final warning.
  • 1/2-cu dried shrimp
  • 2-cu vegetable oil
  • 1/2-cu garlic, sliced (1-2 heads)
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  • 12 chiles japones, or tien-tsin, or thai long chiles
  • 3-T tamarind concentrate
  • 3-T palm sugar
  • 3-T Thai fish sauce
Rehydrate the shrimp in a small bowl, then drain and set aside. Prepare the garlic and green onions, then heat the oil in a wok. Dip a wooden spoon to test the oil: when you see tiny bubbles coming from the wooden spoon, the oil is ready.

First, fry the garlic for 30-90 seconds. Wait for it to turn golden, but do not let it burn. You can skim the garlic out of the oil, or strain the oil into a glass container for the next step. Either way, set the garlic aside in a bowl.

Next, fry the green onions until they begin to caramelize, 2-3 minutes. Skim or strain them out and add to the bowl containing the garlic. Fry the chiles for about 30 seconds, and add them to the bowl. Then fry the shrimp for about 1 minute and add them to the bowl.

Using a food processor, combine the fried ingredients, the tamarind and 3-5 T of the frying oil and blend into a smooth paste. Move this paste to a saucepan, add the sugar and fish sauce, and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove and cool.

Store the paste in a clean glass jar with a good lid. Refrigerated, it will keep for some time. This version of the recipe makes about 6-oz of curry paste.
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January 19, 2007 at 12:02 PM | categories: food, home, beer | View Comments

The Prince of Wales will close on 2007-01-21. So long, Jack - and thanks for all the fish.

Prince of Wales

The last batch of chili (#971) was excellent, too. chili recipe 971

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The Smoke, Part II

December 19, 2006 at 04:53 PM | categories: food, travel, beer, UK | View Comments

I'm not going to complain much about the exchange rate. It's true that restaurant meals were expensive, but beer wasn't such a bad deal. In London, less than $6 gets you 20-oz of cask-conditioned ale. In Manhattan or San Francisco, $4-$5 gets you 16-oz of questionable keg beer, and the barman expects a tip. I also find the English attitude toward alcohol quite refreshing. Stopping right now, sir!

Their attitude toward conservation, however, sometimes appalls me.

There's a preservation order on the exterior, eh?

There isn't a lot to say about my last couple of days in London. I went to some very nice pubs, but all the LondonLand pubs get plenty of business without my advertising. Brooke's Market Leadenhall Market Seven Stars

I did get to the new British Library, near St Pancras station. The architecture is nice, and the exhibit on London maps was stunning.

St Pancras, from the British Library plaza

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